Alabama’s state parks, greenways, historical trails, riverwalks, and hundreds of thousands of other acres ready to enjoy will soon be connected by a common thread: Sweet Trails Alabama.
These spots are not only paths through nature – but also a path through time. Both lifelong natives and first time tourists will be able to find something new and fun to appreciate.
Thanks to the Council on Outdoor Recreation, a subsidiary of Innovate Alabama, and support from the state Legislature, that connection is about to gain big elevation.
“We have a lot of history, we have a lot of outdoor assets,” Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) said.
Jones authored legislation to make a strategic trail network a reality. It sets up a project fund to bring businesses and landowners along the trail to the table to contribute and share those assets for all to enjoy.
“I became interested in this idea of greenways, rail to trail conversion, and got to work on this project,” Jones said. “The whole thrust was that we needed to physically link Alabama’s outdoor assets in a coherent way. Whether that’s abandoned railways or tourism trails, such as the wine trail or the Civil Rights trail, historical trails, state parks, forest lands, existing greenways, riverwalks – all these kinds of outdoor assets are out there.”
“We want to physically link them together to tell a story about what Alabama is.”
Whether it’s a hike through Cheaha State Park, fishing on Lake Guntersville, retracing history along the Natchez, or relaxing at Gulf Shores – Sweet Trails Alabama will be visible as that unified branding and physical link.
The abundance of recreational and historic opportunities in Alabama also supports local businesses along the trail and far off the path. Jones said they have the opportunity to play a part.
“Allowing cities, counties, families, nonprofits, those who are building these greenways, to be able to acquire land, or right of ways to build these things,” Jones said. “There’s opportunity for funding to be a part of it.
“We worked hard in the bill to say if state dollars are used for these properties, then the landowners get those incentives, like the grant funding, liability protection and fencing protections.”
The Council on Outdoor Recreation was founded in 2022 to expand, promote and protect Alabama’s outdoor recreational assets for the enjoyment of current and future Alabamians. That mission is an ongoing process, and Jones says they’re fast at work on a master plan.