In Robert C. Howard’s poem “Pennsylvania Barn Raising,” he writes about the orchestral, collective music of neighborly bonds as they carry their tools up a hill to raise a barn. The poem ends with a triumphant announcement, and a call to action of sorts: “Listen up, America! This is the music of community. We are more together than we are apart.”

To celebrate community through equitable access to the outdoors is the ultimate goal of Sweet Trails Alabama, and its “proverbial barn raising” a call to action for Alabamians to gather tools, roll up their sleeves, and get to work for the betterment of their state.

Sweet Trails AL is a grassroots effort which involves connecting all 67 counties in the state through a statewide trail system, effectively linking towns and counties to natural resources, business opportunities, and workforce development. Furthermore, the network of “human highways” ensures that the outdoors is an equitable and accessible place for every Alabama resident. The project uses Singing River Trail, a proposed 200 mile north Alabama greenway system, as a template for the much larger statewide system.

(Sweet Trails Alabama/Facebook)

For Dr. John Kvach, executive director of Singing River Trail, the project acts as an invitation to Alabamians to rediscover—or perhaps discover for the first time—the abundance of natural beauty in our state. A former history professor, Kvach moved to Alabama in 2008 and was immediately captivated by the state’s diverse natural resources.

“I want people to see how much Alabama has to offer,” Kvach says. “It’s a place that’s far from monotone—it’s so many different colors, places, people, and things. And that’s the diversity of the trail offerings as well–not only will they be a space to enjoy the outdoors, but it’s a space for opportunity building, to empower communities and businesses, and to empower the entrepreneur.”

And for the entrepreneur, a statewide trail system offers immediate connection and economic opportunities that otherwise would not have been available. These opportunities are much more “human scale,” as Kvach explains, in the sense that Alabamians are able to activate their own land and space for new businesses, to access untapped potential for our state.

The project has continued to pick up momentum, beginning with state senator Andrew Jones’ (R-Centre) legislative support to grant state funding. Since then, the organization has released a preliminary draft of the trail system, a concrete, visual proposition of the initial dream, for supporters who want to see themselves as part of the narrative.

(Sweet Trails Alabama/Facebook)

Anna Clem, Singing River Trail’s associate director, echoes Kvach’s sentiment that sometimes we lose sight of what’s in front of us; sometimes, we need a reminder of the possibilities.

“We are such a diverse and beautiful state, and with so much to offer,” says Clem. “We want these communities to see the potential in themselves, and what an amazing opportunity we have to share our state’s beauty and resources, not only with each other but with the Southeast and even with the nation.”

Kvach and Clem have both been encouraged by the myriad of communities that have already embraced the idea of a statewide trail system. From larger cities such as Huntsville, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa, to smaller towns like Dothan and Selma, Sweet Trails AL has attracted the attention of city leadership across the state who want to invest in something special.

“It’s a positive connecting outlet at a time in our nation when we see a lot of division. But community– that’s the way we’re meant to be, the way we’re meant to live. These trails bring us together, show value to each other, and allow us to work together for the betterment of our state.”

To get involved on the ground level, Kvach encourages Alabama residents to reach out to state legislators and express support. You can also find a project timeline, upcoming events, and subscribe to updates at

“Let’s put the proverbial barn up–we’re ready.”