Photo | Lagniappe

A view of Three Mile Creek, between Mobile Infirmary and downtown.

Having access to the water in our great coastal city that is surrounded by water has ironically always been a bit of a challenge. Getting across Water Street for views of the Mobile River has always reminded me of the frog trying to get across the street in the classic Atari game “Frogger.” There is a chance you might get to see the water, but there is also a possibility you may be flattened by an 18-wheeler or a train.

The city has a plan underway to make Water Street more pedestrian friendly, which will help us get across with a little less fear of flattening, but even still, once you are in Cooper Riverside Park, our busy workhorse of a river in our great port city does not exactly make you want to jump in a kayak for a leisurely cruise. In fact, it would sort of be like a water version of “Frogger,” hoping you don’t get run over by a cruise ship or a barge.

In addition to the river, we, of course, have Mobile Bay. And, hopefully, there is still a chance we will one day have more public access to it. There has been talk of the city purchasing the land that was the former USA-Brookley Gulf Pines golf course and possibly putting in a public park there. Hopefully, the powers that be can figure that all out and that dream will one day become a reality.

But until then, we may find our way to the water not by river or by bay, but by creek.

Last week, Mayor Sandy Stimpson unveiled a batch of new RESTORE Act funding for the restoration of Perch Creek, just off DIP, with a launch from McNally Park. Some of the funding will go to improving water quality and some will be used to raise a bridge to allow non-motorized boats, such as kayaks and canoes, from Perch Creek to Dog River. This is great news and will be another great asset to our city.

But I think an even bigger asset will be completion of the Three Mile Creek Greenway.

I’ll admit, for many years I never really thought of Three Mile Creek as a body of water you would actually want to stroll alongside or travel down in any sort of watercraft. I thought of it as a drainage ditch, as many people in Mobile also have. And one that was usually full of litter, too, because some disgusting people in this town are nasty, trashy litterbugs who have no shame. (But those filthy folks can be discussed another day.)

It wasn’t until I moved into my midtown neighborhood, which borders Three Mile Creek, that I realized it was so much more than a “ditch.”

Neighbors talked of launching boats out of the back of our neighborhood, a thought that made me cringe at first. Why would they want to do such a thing? But as I spent more time around it, I started to see it for what it really is — a beautiful waterway in our city that connects it from one end to the other.

Other folks recognized this long before I did, and there has been an effort to revitalize it since the city unveiled a plan in 2015. And we’re finally seeing it happen!

If you haven’t checked it out already, construction is underway on the first part of a lighted walking path that begins at Tricentennial Park, off Stanton Road. A good portion of the walkway is complete and a kayak/canoe launch in the park is under construction. Once the entire project is complete, downtown Mobile will connect to Langan Park by water and walking path. Just picture it — folks jogging, biking and kayaking all the way from downtown to USA.

My husband and I packed up the kids and launched a little Jon boat from the back of our neighborhood recently and took it all the way to the Mobile River. It was eye opening. I had only seen parts of the creek visible from our ‘hood and our roadways. But once you get beyond that — y’all, it’s gorgeous. The waterway is wide and lush vegetation fills the shoreline. Turtles and birds are everywhere.

The word “ditch” does not come to mind at all. And it boggles the mind that this has been largely forgotten and underutilized for so long. It reminds me a lot of Austin’s Town Lake, which is a huge jewel in the crown of one of America’s hippest cities.

RESTORE Act funds were awarded for the project, but some additional public-private partnerships will be necessary for its completion. The area around Interstate 65 and Springhill Avenue is the biggest challenge and will be the most expensive to complete because of the engineering issues that bypassing railroad tracks and the interstate present.

But once completed, it will connect us all, raise property values throughout the city and be another attribute we can show off to companies looking to set up shop here. If you have the opportunity to voice your support for additional funding of this project to our leaders at the local, state and federal level, do it. If you have the opportunity to attend a fundraiser for it or donate personally, do it.

If there is one project that will be transformative for our community as a whole, from LoDa to WeMo, it is this one.

To check out Three Mile Creek for yourself, make plans to attend Creekfest on Saturday, May 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Tricentennial Park. There will be a cane pole fishing tournament, live music and kayak rides. Check out Creekfest’s Facebook page for more information.