Wade on Birmingham

The Future of Birmingham: Half-Full

By
hiking Red Mountain Park

Photo: Rob Briscoe (CC)

Father and daughter go hiking at Red Mountain Park, which
opened in 2012. Children have a wider array of activities in
Birmingham for learning and growing.

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Details at the end.

By Angie Cleland

It wasn’t until 2005, when my first daughter was born, that I seriously considered the future of the Magic City and what it would and could offer her and the family that my husband and I were building here. Until this point in my life, my view of my hometown had always been, well, half-empty.

The Future of BirminghamI was a naysayer. I watched the go-getters come and go from a city that lost hope and forgot to look to the future.

No, it wasn’t until my first daughter was born that I realized I wanted more for this city that she would call home. I wanted her to fondly recall the experiences of her youth here. Her birth created in me a new interest in unearthing the magic of our city for her and her generation. I no longer wanted to sit on the sidelines.

So, I started digging in to see what the city already had to offer children and families and created a group for stay-at-home moms like me. I didn’t find too much. I felt this growing need to prove to them that their misinformed perceptions or negative stories about Birmingham weren’t true — even if I didn’t fully believe it myself yet.

Finding events and activities for our children became easier. Our city, my city, was beginning to change. It gave me a renewed sense of pride, one that eventually led to the creation of the site Birmingham Mommy. My weekly events calendar grew, and my family grew, too, with the addition of twins. New places to take the children were opening left and right. I was giddy, and my kids were as well.

Having seen what nearby cities were doing reaffirmed for me that our town, too, was full of potential — we just needed a little more guidance and direction. We needed the right people in place to push us, people who would not give up when their ideas were met with resistance and skepticism.

With a new generation of doers and makers and leaders in place, we’ve witnessed the emergence of the Lyric Theatre, Regions Field and Railroad Park. We’ve enjoyed new breweries like Avondale and Good People, and watched in delight as the food scene has exploded with restaurants like El Barrio and Bamboo on 2nd and Post Office Pies.

Thanks to local artists, we’re sporting our cool new T-shirts that profess our love for the “’ham.” We go to food festivals to support our growing food truck scene, we take in concerts at venues like Iron City and Saturn.

For the first time in a long time, people are actually participating. And as a result, local businesses are thriving.

One of my most favorite things to do with my kids is make a summer bucket list. We used to spend a lot of time away from Birmingham marking the activities off of our list. While “riding a dolphin” might not be possible here (yet!), zip-lining through Red Mountain Park, rock climbing at First Avenue Rocks and cooling off at Alabama Splash Adventure are all within reach.

Now, when I see the Birmingham in which my children are growing up, I’m amazed and proud of all they can experience here. This makes my little Birmingham heart very happy … and maybe more than just half-full.

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Angie ClelandAngie Cleland is owner and co-founder of the website Birmingham Mommy.

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The Future of BirminghamThe full version of this essay and many more are available in the free ebook, “The Future of Birmingham.”

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Read more essays in our special 10th anniversary series, The Future of Birmingham.

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