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A new sidewalk curves through Delano Park as concrete finishers work on the path that connects both ends of the park in downtown Decatur.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
A new sidewalk curves through Delano Park as concrete finishers work on the path that connects both ends of the park in downtown Decatur.

Path to the past
Workers creating Delano side-
walk as part of city's history trail

By Melanie B. Smith 340-2468

Delano Park visitors soon will be able to live out the old lyric, "I was strolling in the park one day. ..."

Workers are paving a path through both eastern and western parts of Delano, making walking easier for tourists, schoolchildren and other park users, including people with disabilities.

The six-foot-wide path is handicapped accessible and will run from Banks-Caddell Elementary School and Fort Decatur Recreation Center on the west side of Delano to Decatur High and Decatur Developmental schools at the east end of the park. It will help connect the sections of the 28-acre park divided by U.S. 31.

The walkway is evidence of a plan for a Trail of History finally making it from dream to design to reality, said a Friends of Delano Park leader.

The original idea was to make the park more accessible to everyone, said Friends officer Barbara Kelly. There hasn't been an east-west link between park sections for pedestrians or any connection to other areas of Decatur, she said.

The Trail of History is funded in part with a $200,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation.

The process to get the grant approved was slow and frustrating, but the finished trail will be a big plus for Decatur, she said.

Friends of Delano Park and supporters paid the $25,000 cost of planning and construction designs. Decatur Kiwanis gave $5,000, and the Decatur Beautification Committee and 3M also helped, along with individuals, Kelly said.

The trail will have six interpretive markers that tell of the development of Decatur and New Decatur/Albany, and their union in 1927. Rail and river transportation play a part in that history.

Melinda Dunn, director of Decatur's Old State Bank, said signs will showcase pictures, quotes and descriptions on the theme "Restoring the Vision, Preserving the Legacy." Markers will tell of the area's founding in 1889 as "the Chicago of the South" and of promoters' emphasis on culture and recreation as well as industry and transportation, she said.

Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman visited in or near the park, Dunn said. Photos of children in goat carts in the 1920s, of the L&N Railroad shops, of Delano's original Works Progress Administration rose garden and of Second Avenue's trolleys from the turn of the century are among images to be displayed, she said.

Dunn said park visitors will better grasp the history of the two Decaturs and the original vision of Delano as a "park for everybody, representing the very best of Decatur."

Work should be finished by June, Kelly said. Benches and oak trees will go along the trail, paid for through the grant. A water fountain will have three levels, including a low one for pets.

Brooks and Son Construction of Elkmont and Catoma Contracting of Cullman partnered to do the work, Kelly said.

Environmentally friendly

Kelly said that to qualify for the DOT grant, the trail had to provide an alternative to cars as transportation and help the environment. She said the walkway will make walking to schools and several nearby churches easier. It isn't part of the exercise trail that loops through the west end of Delano, Kelly said.

The trail nears planned extensions of Decatur's bike trail, and Friends members hope the trails will be connected one day. They also dream of linking the Trail of History through downtown Decatur to Founder's Park behind the Old State Bank in Old Decatur.

An upcoming project in Delano Park's revitalization and master plan is a new playground with equipment usable by youths with disabilities. The playground will cost $400,000 just for equipment, Kelly said. Junior League of Decatur has started selling commemorative bricks to raise funds.

A memorial plaza in the west side of park is an element in the master plan to be created in the future, Dunn said. Already completed are the rose garden and Splash Pad water play area for children.

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