History of Red Rock Ridge & Valley

Jefferson County, Alabama, was acquired from the Creek Indians in the 1814 Treaty of Fort Jackson and was officially created by the Alabama legislature in honor of President Thomas Jefferson in 1819.

While cotton farming was abundant in the county, early settlers also took advantage of the abundant regional minerals such as iron ore and coal. By 1865 Jefferson County had become one of the south's major suppliers of iron and steel to the Confederacy. It was the region's natural resources of iron and coal that made Birmingham's industrial boom possible in the late 19th Century, and thus Birmingham became the leading industrial city in Alabama. In the late twentieth century, Birmingham's industry-based economy began to transition into a diverse service-based economy, where the city experienced emerging economic growth in the sectors of biomedical research, banking, and insurance.

Jefferson County lies within a dramatic geography of 1,119 square miles made up of the southern extension of the Appalachian Mountains, Cumberland Plateau. Butler Mountain in northeastern Jefferson County boasts the highest elevation in the county at 1,480 feet. The valleys and ridges provide a drainage system of many beautiful rivers and creeks such as the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River, the Cahaba River, Turkey Creek, Five Mile Creek, Village Creek, Valley Creek, and Shades Creek. This web of smaller and larger tributaries is a host to many scenic vistas and recreational opportunities.

The overall shape of the county with the predominant ridge and valley formation has dictated the pattern of development through the years and shaped the foundation of the greenway network proposed in the Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System Master Plan. This master plan looks very similar to what the Olmstead Brothers Firm proposed for Birmingham in 1924, with a greenway system following the streams and ridges that run northeast to southwest.

As written by local historian, Marjorie White, ├ČThe plan suggested numerous parks for active and passive uses. The report recommended neighborhood parks within easy walking distance of every house, including those of black citizens; expansion of certain parks with beautiful, natural features: the creation of beauty spots and athletic fields; a civic center surrounded by major public buildings; parkways and large parks in the flood plains of area creeks and along ridges, reservations of vast lands in Shades Valley and at sites critical for the protection of domestic water supply; and the building of parkways along ridge tops to gain for the public impressive outlooks.├«

Inspired by the Olmstead Brothers, the Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System Master Plan is organized into the following seven corridors that are generally parallel with those ridges and valleys:

These corridors provide great connectivity to major destinations and communities along their routes, as outlined in the master plan. Jefferson County is fortunate in that many of the greenways and community connectors that the Olmsted Brothers envisioned can still become a reality, and this master plan is designed to facilitate that achievement.