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NW-SCC holds re-opening of nature trail, naming of outdoor classroom

When the 2011 tornados damaged much of the Cecil Clapp Nature Trail at Northwest-Shoals Community College’s Phil Campbell campus, Professor Joe Marks Alls was heartbroken by the damage and devastation to the trail and outdoor classroom, where he spent much of his time.

NW-SCC associate dean of academic programs Timmy James said Alls was in his office often asking when NW-SCC would be restoring the trail and outdoor classroom.

“He always said he wanted to retire and come back to restore the outdoor classroom,” James said. “Sadly, he wasn’t able to do that.”

Alls died in 2019, a year before the funding to restore the nature trail and outdoor classroom was acquired.

“A lot of the times, on days when it would be pretty, he would tell his classes they were going to meet at the outdoor classroom,” James said. “He loved it here.”

James said there was initially talk of renaming the trail after Alls, but the outdoor classroom seemed like a better fit to commemorate the teacher’s memory.

“Once we did some research on Cecil Clapp, who the trail is named after, and everything he did, we felt like it would be a disservice to him and his legacy,” James said. 

NW-SCC received $10,000 from the Northwest Alabama RC&D Council and $5,000 from the Alabama Power Foundation to restore the nature trail.

The trail is located at the back of the NW-SCC Phil Campbell campus, and the outdoor classroom is located approximately a quarter of a mile down the trail.

“We had a goal of having this open by the 10-year anniversary of the tornados April 27,” said NW-SCC President Glenda Colagross. “Today is the 26th, so I would say we met that goal.”

Restoring the trail and outdoor classroom included clearing trees and debris off the trail, building new benches for the outdoor classroom and building bridges to access the outdoor classroom.

The grand reopening included appearances from Rep. Jamie Kiel, Rep. Proncey Robertson and members of the RC&D Council and Alabama Power Foundation.

The NW-SCC Jazz Band held a brief performance, and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting for the event, prior to tours of the trail led by NW-SCC ambassadors.