While spring brings about March Madness, the blooming flowers and renewed greenery also mark the time for the annual Azalea and Dogwood Trail hosted by Keep Opelika Beautiful.
Attracting visitors from across the state, the five-mile trail begins and ends at the intersection of 2nd Avenue and 8th Street, winding through the north historic and residential district of Opelika, while showcasing a variety of vibrant blooms and stately homes.
“We have a lot to show off with our beautiful houses and mature trees, and of course we have new neighborhoods, but the neighborhoods that the trails go through are older or even historic neighborhoods,” said Tipi Miller, the Director of Keep Opelika Beautiful.
Green arrows guide visitors along the trail. There are also directions on the Keep Opelika Beautiful website, as well as directional cards available at the Opelika Chamber of Commerce.
It began on March 22 and ended on April 5, though many flowers remain in bloom.
“April 5 is the proposed end date; of course if the flowers are still blooming then we’ll probably extend it a few days because that’s the luxury of just letting mother nature direct us in what we need to do,” Miller said.
The trail has two main points of interest. The Newman residence encourages residents and visitors to drive around their home and admire over 800 azalea bushes. Many locals seize the opportunity for wedding photos, family photos and senior portraits.
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“[The home owner is] very happy that they’re doing it," Miller said. "She’s very honored. I just thought that it was interesting that people know the Azalea and Dogwood Trail is going on and so they wait to take pictures during that time. It's kind of a creative way to use the event that we've already coordinated."
The second point of interest is the brief and terraced Caroline Dean Wildflower Trail. It leads visitors into the wildflower-sprinkled woods and through a covered bridge, located by the municipal park.
“We really encourage people at that point on the trail to stop and get out and kind of stretch their legs and enjoy the nature and that setting, as well as the historic markers,” Miller said.
In light of the pandemic, the event has taken on a new role. Keep Opelika Beautiful is using this opportunity as a way to facilitate community by providing an opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy socially distanced fun.
Last year, the trail opened the week Gov. Ivey issued the shelter in place order.
“That gave us the opportunity to really promote the Azalea and Dogwood Trail as a way that you can be socially distanced and you can enjoy the beautiful things, but from the comfort of your car in a healthy and safe way for people, and I still think that still rings true for people today,” Miller said.
Located only two blocks from downtown, the event hopes to attract visitors to local businesses and highlight the treasures Opelika has to offer.
“We have so many great things in Opelika," Miller said. "We really encourage people if they're coming to see the Azalea and Dogwood Trail to maybe go to downtown Opelika for lunch or to do shopping. We have a lot to show off with Opelika and I'm really pleased to have so many people see what Opelika is all about.”
In addition to this event, Keep Opelika Beautiful has three upcoming community events. A free shred day will be hosted on April 17 for residents of Lee County where paper shredding will be done on site, Miller said. It is not available for use by businesses.
‘Slam Dunk the Junk,’ a slam dunk contest, will be held on April 24 as a part of an anti-littering campaign that kicked off on April 1. Garden in the Park, an arts and crafts festival, will be hosted on May 1 at Opelika’s Municipal Park. Miller added that everything sold will be handmade and homegrown.
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