If you’re looking for a bit of a challenge while enjoying a day outdoors, trails at the Graham Creek Nature Preserve can provide it.
“We have about eight miles of marked trails,” Foley Environmental Manager Leslie Gahagan said. “Some of them are loops and some of them are pretty big. We have one that’s a four-mile trail that kind of crosses some pretty rustic places so you’ve got to be in full-on hiking mode to get through those.”
Thanks to a grant program from the U.S. Department of Transportation administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), the city is adding about 1,250 feet to an existing trail that will be for folks not looking for a challenge.
“That boardwalk is used pretty heavily throughout the year by people who don’t feel comfortable in the wooded, rough-it trails,” Gahagan said. “People who may not physically be able to get out and walk the trails. It’s been a real asset for the park and I think expanding it going to be a really great thing.”
A nearly $200,000 grant through ADECA will triple the length of the existing handicap-accessible trail. The city had to kick in just under $50,000 in an 80-20 match in the state agency’s Recreational Trails Program.
“This is a phase two of our existing Memorial Tree Trail and boardwalk,” Gahagan said. “Some of it is already done but we ran out of money.”
The initial project cost about $125,000 and is about half the size of the planned extension.
“The boardwalk is about 600 feet long and the rest of it is compacted tire mulch,” Gahagan said. “The existing boardwalk does have handrails where it crosses the ponded area and it’s got kind of a picnic area at the end. The current end of it we’ll just kind of pick up and loop around. It’ll have a few bump-outs for places for people to sit. There will also be interpretive signage along the way to explain what types of habitat people are entering.”
Gahagan said the city will use the basic plan from the first phase of this trail to continue it for the additional 1,250 feet.
“We are going to use the existing design guidelines and kind of finish out the boardwalk, which is a high expense of this project,” she said. “It’ll basically be taking our existing boardwalk, which is due west of the Interpretive Center and looping it through the wooded area connecting it back to the Tree Trail. By the time we finish this project this trail should be right at a half-mile.”
Gahagan said the city hopes to start construction in the summer and finish before the end of 2020.
Among other amenities, Graham Creek’s 500 acres offers a canoe/kayak launch with a connection to Wolf Bay, three 18-basket disc golf courses, picnic and play areas as well as bird watching areas.
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