Cecil Clapp: Nature trail bears name of forestry professor

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In the back corner of the Phil Campbell campus of Northwest-Shoals Community College, a distinctive sign marks the start of a unique outdoors space open to students, faculty and community members alike. The walking trail is named for Cecil Clapp, the forestry technician professor who, along with his students, first built the trail in the early 1970s.

According to a 2004 Franklin County Times article, the trail had fallen into disrepair by the late ’80s, when it was rediscovered by biology professor Joe Alls, who led the charge to have the trail restored.

“I guess after Mr. Clapp retired in the late-70s, the nature trail and amphitheater were just neglected,” Alls said at the time.

It took several years of pursuing different routes to rehab the trail, but Alls finally found the support he needed in Glenn Hudson, associate dean at the time. Alls joined with Jimmy Glasgow, director of the Alabama Center For Advanced Woodworking Technology in May 2003, and by October of the same year, their efforts – along with those of other volunteers – had yielded a renovated trail. More than $43K was donated toward the work, with the school spending another $15K.

“It’s a beautiful place to study and learn,” Alls said.

The happy ending, however, was not to last. The 2011 tornados damaged much of the trail, and it would be some 10 years before it was restored again. 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, and a ribbon cutting reopening event was held in April 2021.

Alls died in 2019, a year before the funding to restore the nature trail and outdoor classroom was acquired, but his commitment to Clapp’s original vision lives on, with the outdoor classroom named in his honor.

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 performed, 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.

The trail is approximately a quarter of a mile long and features rock bluffs and native Alabama plants.

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