Athens to be part of 150-mile Singing River Trail

May 15—The idea of connectivity gets thrown around a lot these days — mostly in the area of bringing people together virtually using technology. But among the things getting lost in today's fast-paced world are people and communities connecting on a physical, tangible level.

That is one of the main ideas behind the Singing River Trail project. SRT seeks to connect much of North Alabama, from Natchez Trace to Bridgeport, with 150 to 200 miles of trail spanning at least nine counties and 26 cities along the Tennessee River.

The project is called the Singing River Trail because the Yuchi Indian tribe that once lived along the Tennessee River believed a woman who lived in the river sang to them.

During Monday's meeting, the City Council unanimously approved a $20,000 appropriation for the cost associated with mapping the route of the trail through Athens. Council member Chris Seibert said the funds will guarantee the route comes through the city, with the possibility of a trailhead being a part of the planned park at the old Pilgrim's Pride location.

According to SRT Project Executive Director John Kvach, the trail is currently planned to connect Lauderdale, Colbert, Lawrence, Limestone, Morgan, Madison, Marshall, Jackson and DeKalb counties through cities such as Florence, Muscle Shoals, Decatur, Athens, Madison, Huntsville, Guntersville and Scottsboro.

Current plans have the SRT connecting the Swan Creek trail in Athens to the Richard Martin Rails-to-Trail in the Piney Chapel/Elkmont area as part of the project, meaning people could travel from the city all the way to the Tennessee state line.

"Most of the municipalities and counties the trail passes through have obligated some funds to help out with that cost," Seibert said. "Really, if you want the private sector to come and invest around that trail, you have to have a defined route. That's what this money is going to."

In-depth discussion

Kvach was the guest speaker at Athens Rotary Club's meeting Friday at Athens State University, and he spoke at length about SRT and where the project is currently.

Kvach said 21% of the Alabama population lives close enough to the planned Singing River Trail route that they can either walk or bike to it. He said several companies have contacted the project about becoming a financial supporter because using a trail system like SRT could aid in the mental and physical health of the people that make up their workforce.

TVA recently partnered with the SRT project, for example, with Kvach saying the company will provide a budget and access to all of its environmental and archaeological staff to aid the effort.

Kvach said potential tourism along the trail is becoming a big part of the project, and since many people just spent a year "cooped up" because of COVID-19, "for a lot of us, the outdoors has become something different."

"If you are scoffing at the idea of outdoor recreation, scoff away," he said. "Oil and petroleum makes up 1.7% of the nation's gross domestic product. Outdoor recreation makes up 2.2%. Alabama's GDP is 1.6% in outdoor recreation."

Kvach said once completed the trail is expected to bring a $25- to $26-million investment back into the state through businesses, direct taxes and tourism. He said properties and businesses along long-form trails generally see an increase of 2% to 5% in value.

Kvach said Gov. Kay Ivey put together a commission tasked with finding "innovation that can be invested in immediately to put jobs and money back in community," and Kvach said he was told the SRT was the most innovative project in the state.

"Once fully completed, the state expects the Singing River Trail to be biggest tourist destination in the state of Alabama," he said. "It's not just talk. The talking section is over. Now, we're getting to work."

Visit for more information on the project.