Before it was even completed, the Columbus Riverwalk was a hit with locals and tourists.
By the time the 1.25-mile trail officially opened in June 2005, thousands of people were familiar with the wooded path that meanders along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The first completed phase of the riverwalk features two pavilions, benches, trash receptacles and lighted trails. Recent Eagle Scout projects added birdhouses, bat-houses and a walk along the levy.
"We always knew this would be a good thing, but it's unbelievable just how many people are down there using it every day," says Jan Miller, manager of Main Street Columbus.
And the Riverwalk isn't nearly finished.
"There are a lot of ongoing projects that are going to keep making Riverwalk better and better," Miller says.
Main Street Columbus was the catalyst behind the project that was several years in the making. Miller says it's all about quality of life.
"You can choose to work anywhere in the world," she says. "You choose to live and work in a community because of its quality of life. This trail has added so much to our community. Even the nay-sayers are now saying that they are really enjoying the Riverwalk."
The trail is a flurry of activity in every season with local residents and visitors walking, jogging, walking dogs and bicycling. It also features security and ongoing maintenance projects, and fishermen like the increased number of access points to the river.
"It's absolutely beautiful," says Brice Miller, who relocated here from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina with his wife and three children. "Our family has always enjoyed spending time together on weekly walks, and now we have the ideal place for doing that."
Future phases of the project may include opening the old river bridge to pedestrian traffic and connecting the riverwalk to other paths. Additional pavilions also are planned, and Main Street Columbus is working with local birders to offer bird-watching seminars along the Riverwalk. Jan Miller says a recent search resulted in the identification of 54 different butterfly species.
"Now that the first stage turned out so well, we have community support to do more things with Riverwalk," Miller says.
With the first phase of Riverwalk open, several weddings and family reunions are being planned at the trail for summer 2006. Riverwalk also is the site for several Market Street Festival events in May.
Story by Kari K. Ridge