Crossroads of Heritage and Hope: The Town of Pike Road Story
On October 21, 2010, the Town of Pike Road cut the ribbon on the municipality’s new home: a renovated former commercial space in the Pike Road Station development on Vaughn Road. The beginning of a new phase in the town’s history, the grand opening of the new town hall also marked the 13th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Pike Road. While both events are significant, they are only the latest in a history that stretches back nearly two centuries and includes several communities.
While Pike Road has only existed as a municipality since 1997, the Pike Road community has flourished for more than 175 years. Beginning with the arrival of the Meriwether, Mathews and Marks families around 1815, people began settling and farming the area in the mid-nineteenth century. As more families moved in, more services were needed, and by the early twentieth century, a booming small town had grown up at the intersection of Pike Road and Meriwether Road. (Pike Road, of course, was so-called because one had to pay a toll, or pike, to travel on it.) The crossroads community was referred to as the Pike Road community because of its location on the heavily traveled highway. The main intersection was home to several businesses, including cotton gins, a hardware store, livestock auction, post office, general store and doctors’ offices. Two of the buildings which once housed these early enterprises still stand near the original town center and across Pike Road from the first town hall.
The twentieth century brought continued population growth to Pike Road. While children’s education had been handled by individual families up to this point, the need for a consolidated public school was imminent. Within a few years, the people of the community had raised the money and procured the land for the schoolhouse, and the Pike Road Consolidated School opened in 1918. The school became a center for community activities and remained so until its close in 1970.
The close of the Pike Road School was just one of many changes that took place in the Pike Road area in the 1970s. With the growth of the City of Montgomery came new challenges for the quiet farming community. Residents realized that without local control over zoning regulations, their pristine surroundings and way of life might be lost forever if the area were annexed.
Responding to the effects of the expanding neighbor city, the residents of Pike Road first considered incorporation during this decade. Though this first consideration of independence was given up, the idea was revived in 1986. The obstacle to the second attempt was the prohibitive cost of the legal work involved in establishing a municipality. However, residents continued to grow increasingly aware of the threat the encroaching city posed to the Pike Road way of life.
At the same time that these early discussions of incorporation were taking place, new construction was booming in the Pike Road community. All of the new homes brought residents to the area in droves, and the population of Pike Road doubled during the 1980s. The population growth added more voices to the strengthening outcry for incorporation.
After years of discussion and pressured by a proposed plan to run the Outer Loop, an Interstate bypass, through the heart of Pike Road, citizens organized the final, successful incorporation effort in 1997. In order to make the vision a reality, a Pike Road attorney volunteered his time and legal services to the effort. At the time, 209 voters from the Glynlakes, Bean, Barnes and Meriwether Road neighborhoods were asked to vote on whether or not a city should be formed. Proponents of the idea spent countless hours going door-to-door, “selling” the idea to everyone they could reach and convincing them to go to the polls. On October 10, 1997, 151 of those voters cast their ballots in the referendum. 147 of them, or 97%, voted “yes” for independence. With the passing of the referendum, the Pike Road community became the Town of Pike Road, a Class 8 municipality.
Incorporation was not the end of the battle to preserve and build on the heritage of the Pike Road area. In the years since the initial vote was cast, the town has faced the challenges of raising revenue, maintaining roads, providing public services to citizens and staying ahead of the neighboring city’s efforts to annex land. During the town’s first years, council and planning commission meetings were held at Peace Baptist Church, the location where the vote to incorporate took place. It was at the Peace Baptist Church that discussions were had over how to best supply services such as water, sewer, road maintenance, fire and police protection to the citizens.
The location of the first town hall building, at 4902 Pike Road, was symbolic of city leaders’ commitment to preserving the heart of Pike Road, both literally and metaphorically. The former home is near the intersection of Meriwether and Pike Roads, at the original center of the Pike Road community. Town council and other committee meetings were held in the front portion of the building, which, in a salute to the town’s commitment to independence, was dedicated on July 4, 2005. Though town offices have relocated, the original town hall building is will soon be the heart of a town center, complete with a fire station, community activities facility and open space.
August 25, 2010, the Pike Road Town Council held its first meeting in the new town hall facility at Pike Road Station. Located just east of the intersection of Pike Road and Vaughn Road, the new facility symbolizes the beginning of a new chapter in the town’s history. The newly renovated building that now houses town offices was originally designed as an upscale grocery store. Now, it is one of Alabama’s municipal showplaces. With meeting space for official town business, training rooms that can be utilized by community groups, a large banquet room and ample office space, the new town hall meets the needs of the municipal government while offering citizens a place to gather.
Hope for the Future
One of the central commitments Pike Road leaders made in the early days of incorporation was to grow wisely and with careful planning. To accomplish this purpose, the town’s planning commission embraced the idea of “smart growth” and Smart Code development. Smart growth is a planning philosophy based on a number of tenets, including the protection of farmland and open space, mixing land uses and walkability. In addition, smart growth aims to create communities with a strong “sense of place,” preserving the uniqueness that sets places apart and makes them desirable to residents and businesses.
Smart Code, an alternative to traditional zoning regulations, places value on creating town centers, preserving green spaces and making cities friendlier to pedestrians and recreation. The first municipality in Alabama to adopt Smart Code, Pike Road boasts the most innovative planning system in the Southeast.
With the opening of the Pike Road Natural Trail, one aspect of the town’s recreation plan became reality. Funded by a Transportation Enhancement Grant from the Federal Highway Administration, the trail system is designed to accommodate walkers, runners and off-road bicyclists. At its completion, the trail system will connect many of the town’s neighborhoods and parks, offering a healthy transportation alternative to communities that have long enjoyed outdoor activities.
This innovative, intentional way of handling growth and preparing for the future has attracted many people to the Pike Road area. With great opportunities like a public school system, natural trail system and more quality residential and commercial options on the horizon, the reasons to be thrilled about Pike Road are endless. Call Town Hall today to find out how you can turn your enthusiasm into progress. Welcome Home to Pike Road!