- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) - For years, Three Mile Creek has been a dumping ground for polluters. Sewage spills were common, and the public was warned about the risks of fishing and swimming there.

Mobile city officials hope their latest action changes the creek’s reputation. With unanimous vote Tuesday, the City Council endorsed a $447,647 contract with James H. Adams & Sons Construction Co. to build the first one-mile section of a proposed 12-mile trail that highlights the city’s greenway initiative.

“I started talking about this when I first came onto the council and it’s taken 20 years for it to become a reality,” said Councilman Fred Richardson. “Once you see what is constructed, the entire city will like what is going on. This is big.”

The council’s approvals included a $40,000 contract with Dorsey & Dorsey Engineering Inc. to manage the work. The council also endorsed Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s acceptance of a $386,525 state grant.

“This is a monumental step towards restoring Three Mile Creek to its historic significance,” said Stimpson. “Three Mile Creek was Mobile’s drinking water source before World War II, and now it can connect communities throughout the city of Mobile.”

He added, “This new trail will encourage fitness, beautify a vital waterway and educate citizens.”

Stimpson and Richardson both hailed the project as transformative.

“We are giving Three Mile Creek back to the people,” said Richardson, whose district includes the first leg of the trail. “Every time we had a large rain, we had a sewage spill into the creek. Then the signs came up of ‘Don’t eat the fish.’ I’m tired of that. People were dumping other stuff into the creek.”

But the city has addressed many of the problems, Richardson said. Now, he said, “Everything is good with the creek.”

The first leg of the construction will begin at the eastern edge of Tricentennial Park - a point across Three Mile Creek from the back side of Mobile Infirmary - and traverse westward across Stanton Road to West Ridge Road.

The path will be 10-feet wide and will be able to accommodate bicyclists, joggers and walkers. There will be benches, solar-powered lights, educational signage and a kayak launch, along with an outdoor fitness area.

A private grant from the Sybil Smith Charitable Trust to the Mobile County Health Department’s Public Health Advisory Board provided $200,000 for the kayak launch and other park improvements. A federal community development block grant added an additional $105,000 to the project.

All told, the first one-mile stretch costs a bit over $1.2 million.

Stimpson spokesman George Talbot said the one-mile project will take “10 months or less” to be finished.

Council President Gina Gregory said the location of the first leg of the project is important: “It’s a great place. It’s in the middle of town. People will see it and get to it easily.”

But she has visions of taking the trail out further past Langan Municipal Park and to the University of South Alabama.

Gregory said she’s going to request $150,000 in the city’s fiscal year 2018 budget to dredge Langan Park, which she said is a key component of continuing with the greenway project.

Earlier this year, city engineer Nick Amberger said that dredging would be a “multimillion-dollar project.”

“At Langan, my bucket list is to put boats and kayaks in,” said Gregory, adding that she wants to restore the park back to recreational hot bed it was in the 1950s.

“It will be a substantial amount of money and we’ll need grant money to make it happen,” said Gregory. “If we have to do it in phases, that is fine. But the goal is to get it finished.”

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