Cypress Nature Park, a 260-acre natural treasure, sits quietly and relatively untouched next to the hustle and bustle of Montgomery's now-thriving riverfront, a mere 1.25 miles away from the Alabama State Capitol.
There is a reason for the park's low-profile presence in the community. The undeveloped, densely-wooded land is mostly hidden from view and currently not accessible to the public; though, that may soon change. In August 2011, the Montgomery Nature Conservancy, HOK Architects, Inc., and the City of Montgomery held a public brainstorming session allowing the community to contribute ideas for the development of the area. The result of the three-day meeting: a master plan that will transform this large natural habitat into an outdoor sanctuary adjacent to the governmental hub of Alabama.
How it All Started
In 2001, Montgomery Trees (formerly the Montgomery Tree Committee) began leading the effort to transform this undeveloped area into a public park. This was a fitting project for the group, as the park is home to more than 60 species of trees and is believed to have the largest population of mature Water Tupelo trees in the United States outside of Louisiana.
As the project evolved, Montgomery Trees developed a separate non-profit organization, the Montgomery Nature Conservancy, to focus specifically on Cypress Nature Park.
Robert Cope, president of the Montgomery Nature Conservancy, has worked on the Cypress project for more than five years. Bill Campbell, Cope’s partner and vice president of the Conservancy, can be found most Saturdays exploring the grounds and uncovering new species of wildlife. Cope and Campbell have been instrumental in developing the vision for the park, generating public and private interest in the endeavor, and participating in the environmental and hydrological studies necessary to get the ambitious project off the ground.
Recognizing the potential of Cypress Nature Park, the City of Montgomery has incorporated the park into the long-term plan for the Riverwalk. More than 100 species of birds and over 30 flowering plants have been documented in the park. This tally continues to
grow as more is learned about the ecosystem. City officials see the park as an educational resource for the community and an integral part of the revitalization efforts that have already begun downtown.
Plans for Development
In addition to the City of Montgomery and HOK Architects, the Montgomery Nature Conservancy has worked with local and national preservationists, scientists, landscape architects and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on plans for the park. It is expected that Cypress Inlet, positioned just beside Montgomeryís Riverfront Amphitheater, will one day serve as the entrance to the park. A system of walking paths will provide public access to the farthest reaches of the space, offering an up-close look at the cypresses and marshland.
Paths for biking and jogging will give people an opportunity to escape the monotony of the gym. A footpath will be constructed to allow visitors to venture along Cypress Creek to Cypress Pond, unveiling a world of high bluffs and ancient ravines that is hidden from the world today and mostly unchanged over the last two centuries. A raised boardwalk will cross over the swamp, offering a fascinating vantage point of one of Montgomeryís best-kept secrets.
|Plans for Cypress Nature Park developed by HOK Architects, Inc. and |
revealed in the August 2011 community meeting
The story of Cypress Park is still unfolding; however, a singular theme has endured the ten years since Montgomery Trees began the project: protect the natural habitat while opening it as a place for the public to enjoy.
If you would like to learn more about Cypress Nature Park, visit them online at www.CypressNaturePark.org, or connect by searching Cypress Nature Park on Facebook. Tax deductible donations are accepted on the website.
Montgomery Nature Conservancy, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit organization.