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Preserving a natural wonder

By By Becky Miller
Guest writer
Madison County is beautiful during the fall season, especially if you were to venture out toward the mountains near Monte Sano in nearby Huntsville.
During this time of year, the leaves are golden. The air is crisp, and often if you pay close attention, you may see various forms of wildlife.
For residents of Madison, seeing golden leaves and experiencing nature at its best can be done on Rainbow Mountain. The mountain is considered one of Madison's best-kept secrets. An effort is under way to preserve Rainbow Mountain in its natural state and to keep the mountain from being taken over by future development.
The area is often known for its upscale homes rather than for its hiking trails and natural beauty. As a result of the area's greenway restoration efforts and the attention of the Alabama Sierra Club, more than two miles of hiking trails have been developed, offering beautiful views of the valley below. Caves, cliffs and waterfalls can also be found on Rainbow Mountain, as well as the Balance Rock, numerous types of ferns and fauna.
The Rainbow Mountain Trails Project is a concerted effort under way to bring attention to the mountain and to promote conservation to one of the few remaining undeveloped areas in Madison County. According to Nat Berry, spokesperson for the project, rapid development in Madison has left few natural areas to enjoy.
"Although the Sierra Club lobbied the city of Madison to initiate protective measures to save the land from future development, measures were never passed," Berry said. "However, the city did budget funds for the acquisition of land and today, more than 140 acres of land adjacent to the trails was purchased to be kept in its natural state."
Recently, hiking trails along Rainbow Mountain were better marked and a sign erected at the beginning of the trail near the water tower to identify the trail system. As part of his Eagle Scout Service Project, Ben Godley, 14, was responsible for the installation of the sign. Cobblestone walkways were also installed to make it easier for hikers to get to the trail and the adjoining playground.
The Alabama Sierra Club created the trails in 1998. Approximately 65 acres of land comprise the trail system and surrounding area. The Rainbow Loop Trail is approximately two miles in length. The Wild Trail is approximately a half-mile long. The Jakes Trail was created for children.
"The trails are challenging enough to make them an ideal training ground for those who like to take big hikes," Berry said. "For the nature lover and animal lover, spring and summer flowers abound during the seasons on Rainbow Mountain. Animals, such as coyote, red-tailed hawk, wild turkey, fox, rabbits, ground hogs and great horned owls have been spotted."
Berry said reptiles seen on the mountain range from lizards, salamanders, to box turtles. Dogwood trees, redbuds, oaks and many other species of trees can be found along the mountains slopes.
"Many of these prized jewels of the mountain will be lost if development continues," Berry said. "Once they're gone, they're gone forever."
For more information about the trails or the greenway project on Rainbow Mountain, contact Nat Berry at natberry@yahoo.com. The Sierra Web site is htty://Alabama.sierraclub.org.

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