Though much of the focus is on the dam itself, the Duck River water reservoir project is also generating a new recreational site for the county — and city officials have now approved the second phase.
The Cullman city council has approved phase two of the Duck River recreational trail plan, which includes the addition of several new miles of trails, along with foot bridges to eventually connect the separate pieces.
The new phase of work is estimated to cost $149,912, though $100,000 of that will be covered by a grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs for a Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Project.
“One of the things very important to us was, when the lake is well established, we’d like it to be a recreational area,” Cullman Mayor Max Townson said. “It can be used for fishing, bike trails, and hiking. It’s something unique that people can do and stay mobile.”
Bill St. John, whose firm St. John and Associates designed much of the recreation plan, said the goal is to eventually include two foot bridges and a total of approximately 20 miles of trails that will connect all the way around the reservoir.
“There will be a foot bridge below the dam going across Duck River, and another foot bridge on the north end of the reservoir will that take the trail across Duck River, above County Road 1669,” St. John explained. “The grants also covered a new section of trail, which took off from the trail already built on the west side of the reservoir. That will be another eight miles of trail.”
A total of five miles are already open to hikers and riders, and a portion of the trail is piggybacking on a culvert replacement project on County Road 1651, which will also help bridge the trail around the eventual lake.
“You basically have to get across the river three times to make it all the way around,” St. John said. “It’s really exciting, and this is going to be a great trail. It’s beautiful out there, and will run through the buffer zone.”
St. John noted mountain biking has been steadily gaining in popularity across the state, and the new Duck River trail should position Cullman to compete with trails in neighboring communities like Anniston and Huntsville.
“A lot of mountain bike trails are being built all over Alabama, and it’s really becoming a destination for those activities,” he said. “I think our system will help Cullman play a bigger role in that, and bring a lot of people here to do that.”
A portion of the trail runs through the active dam construction site, so St. John noted it won’t be entirely finished and connected until after construction wraps up in the watershed.
But, once the trail is finished, officials plan to include a handicap accessible fishing pier and parking at Henderson Branch, along with two boat launches. One launch site will be located north of Henderson Branch, and the second will be built at the cul-de-sac on County Road 1651.
A camp site could potentially be added at some point in the future, though a final decision has not been made.
The trails are built to the International Mountain Bike Association standards, and only hikers and bicycles are allowed. No motorized vehicles will be permitted on the trails.
The reservoir project will create a 640-acre lake with a 32-million-gallon-per-day capacity in northeast Cullman County, which will work in conjunction with the area’s current sole major water source Lake Catoma. The design will be a hybrid, with roller-compacted concrete in the center and earthen wings.
It is estimated to cost a total of approximately $110 million, though that price could go down slightly once work is complete.