/City council discusses future of Shoal Creek Park
City Council in gold letters on purple backgroundGraphic by Bell Jackson

City council discusses future of Shoal Creek Park

By Cady Inabinett, News editor 

The Montevallo City Council voted to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Shoal Creek Park Foundation at their May 9 meeting. This agreement allows the foundation to move forward with fundraising efforts for proposed projects, including creating a new ADA compliant trail at the park and renovating the Mahler House. 

According to Herman Lehman, representing the Shoal Creek Park Foundation at the meeting, the memorandum of understanding agreement simply outlines the plans for fundraising, including what the funds would be used for. The group hopes to raise $300,000 for trail improvements and $200,000 for renovations to the Mahler house. The memorandum of understanding was approved by the Shoal Creek Park Foundation at their previous meeting. 

Because Shoal Creek Park is a city park, approval of any construction in the park would need to be approved by the city outside of this agreement. Additionally, the city would be responsible for conducting the bid process for construction contractors if construction were to be approved. As Lehman put it, the foundations involvement would end after fundraising. 

Lehman said that the foundation aims to raise all necessary funds before coming back to the council for construction approval instead of doing the project in phases. 

“We won’t bring the construction drawings to you for approval until there’s a sufficient amount of money to move forward,” he said. 

Council member Sonya Swords raised concerns about the use of limestone aggregate to make trails ADA compliant, asking if it was the best material available to make the trails accessible to users with wheelchairs, walkers or strollers. Lehman reported that the foundation had met with representatives from the Lakeshore Foundation—a Birmingham based non-profit that works to promote active lifestyles—who said that a compact stone material, like limestone aggregate, would be the ideal material. He also pointed out that the proposed route for the new trail would avoid flood prone areas. 

Council member Martha Ann Eisenberg asked if fundraising for the trail and the house could be separated, saying, “I’m willing to vote for the trails all the way, but not for the house.” 

Council member Kenny Dukes responded to this by saying, “All the money that’s raised, to my understanding, can go all to the trail and not to the house. It’s just money that’s been raised that can be utilized.” 

Lehman pointed out that some donors may donate specifically to the trail project or the house project, but corroborated Dukes’s point, saying, “If somebody just give a blanket donation then, yeah, it can be used for anything.” 

The motion passed with only Eisenberg’s opposition. 

In addition to this, the council approved the publication of a fundraising brochure that advertises donation opportunities for the Shoal Creek Park projects—a move that Mahler said would help give donors an idea of what they are donating too and show that the city supports these measures. 

The council voted to approve two other measures at the meeting. One of the approved measures rezoned an area between Gardner Street and Melton Street to a special zoning district in order to allow for the storage of recreation vehicles in the area. There are plans to use a lot in the area as a parking lot with rental spaces for recreation vehicles. 

The other measure approved the purchase of a new fire engine for the Montevallo Fire Department. Fire Chief Brad Davis explained the engine would be needed to replace an old one. The engine will cost $658,488, with Mayor Rusty Nix saying the city would source these funds from the city’s American Rescue Plan funds, the city’s capital reserve account and financing from Trustmark Bank. 

Members of the Montevallo Junior City Council were recognized for their civic engagement at the council meeting as well. Junior Mayor Olivia Gilbert presented the Most Civically Engaged Member Award to Blessing Adejumo, who has served as Mayor Pro Tempore for the past year. Additionally, Gilbert announced new members of the Junior City Council, including the new Junior Mayor Julia Smith. 

Nix recognized Gilbert’s two years of service as Junior Mayor by presenting her with a name plaque. Nix said she has done outstanding work representing Montevallo’s youth. 

Additionally, four candidates running in the upcoming primary election addressed the council about their campaigns. This included Republican Circuit Court Judge candidate Jonathan Spann and three candidates for the Shelby County Board of Education: Jane Hampton, running for reelection, Brian Boatman and Amber Polk. 

Following Boatman and Polk, Montevallo resident Greg Reese addressed the council to say that the pair are opposed to critical race theory and, “social, emotional learning being taught in our school.” Reese went on to say, “That’s just a dog whistle for racism. So they lost my vote immediately,” and that he wanted other voters to be aware of their stance. 

The next City Council meeting will be held Monday, May 23, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page. Meetings may also be attended in person at City Hall. 

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Cady Inabinett is the news editor for The Alabamian. She’s an English major and enjoys reading, watching movies and generally just being pretentious in her free time.