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ARCH STREET PROJECT: City surveys to establish property lines

DEMOPOLIS – Surveyors are back at work on the Arch Street Scenic Walk project along the Tombigbee River.

On Thursday, a survey crew from Almon, a Tuscaloosa-based surveying and engineering firm, were working on preliminary surveys to determine land actually owned by the city along the project’s projected pass.

“The property line survey is something we’re not required to do,” said City Clerk Vickie Taylor, “but we wanted to do because of the property owners and the controversy surrounding the project.”

On Wednesday, Taylor, who wrote a grant application approved by the state for $493,237.60, received a clearance from the Alabama Historical Commission substantially removing the final obstacle for construction of the scenic walk.

The Commission found that there would be no adverse effect on Bluff Hall. Taylor said she expected the state to release a final archeological study required for the project sometime next week.

The walking path, part of the city’s three-year strategic plan, includes a 4,874-foot by 10-foot concrete bike and pedestrian path, a four-foot wrought iron security fence along the entire length of the path, lighting every 200 feet and benches every 400 feet. Landscaping along the route is included as are two floating docks. It will begin at the Yacht Basin and run south to the Botanical Gardens. The city’s will provide almost $101,000 in matching funds.

Property owners along the path had expressed concerns about creating a thoroughfare through back yards and along side lots, but the path will lie on the city-owned property.

“Over the years, erosion had taken place and city wants to know how much land they have,” said Ron Taylor, a surveyor on the project. “Basically, the city knows what it has to the north of Commission Street, but we need to establish lot lines from here south.”

Taylor, armed with a 1923 survey map, copy of land deeds and a two assistants, spent most of the day on Capitol Street attempting to establish the boundaries for Arch Avenue and Arch Street, as its officially named south of Capitol Street.

Biboo Webb, who owns a house that backs into Arch Street isn’t “particularly happy” about the effort to open up “Webb’s Bottom,” as it was known in the last century. Her house is nestled between the homes of her great-grandfather and grandfather.

“Back in the horse-and-buggy days, it was all family down here,” she said.

“I told (the city) I would like it kept green, and they assured me the trees wouldn’t be cut,” Webb said. “I don’t want the lights because I think they will create problems at night, but I’m not one who is real against it – it’s city property.”

“It’s our back yard and we’ve been taking care of it, but it’s not ours,” she added, surveying the bottom behind her home.

“It’s a nice, quiet and peaceful areas and we would like to keep it that way, but we’ve always known it’s Arch Street,” Webb said.

In fact, the city’s right to control the property was established in the 1890s after one of Webb’s forebears was sued for placing a barricade along Arch Street, using the area for wharfage and other commercial pursuits, Vickie Taylor said. Ultimately the Supreme Court held that city property could not be used for private gain.

The timetable for the start of construction is unclear, but Ron Taylor said it would take “several months” before final engineering would be complete.

“We still have a lot more surveying to do before the engineers can begin the construction plans,” he said.