By Jonathan Deal
Those looking to get outside and enjoy spring are in luck. Historic walking tours are returning to downtown Athens for the four Saturdays in April.
Athens is one of more than 30 towns across the state participating in the April Walking Tours program, now in its 11th year.
The Alabama Tourism Department coordinates the tours, which include historic districts and courthouse squares.
Locally, the Athens-Limestone Visitors Center at 100 N. Beaty St. helps coordinate the tours with local guides.
“Usually there are about 25 to 30 people (per tour) if the weather is nice,” said Doris Black, an Athens Visitors Center volunteer. “There is no charge. Just show up by 9:45 in the meeting room and they’ll find out who wants to go where.”
“We are garnering more and more people,” said Cayce Lee at the visitors center. “We are the only city in the state that offer multiple tours on the same day. We have attendance up there with Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville.”
Local history enthusiasts lead the five historic tours at 10 a.m. each Saturday. The tours cover the downtown district, Beaty district, cemetery district, Houston district and Athens State district.
“The best thing to do, if they want to see them all, is to come to a different one each week,” said Black. “It just depends on what they want to see. They can come back another day if they want to see another district.”
Another Limestone community will participate in the program for the first time. Historic Mooresville will offer walking tours at 10 a.m. each Saturday.
“I’m glad to see them add the walking tours (at Mooresville). It’s Alabama’s oldest city,” said Lee. “They community has taken pride in preserving it. Power lines are hidden; every single structure has a story behind it.
In total, more than 1,800 tours have been conducted statewide since the walking tours program began 11 years ago, and more towns get on board each year.
Participating towns include: Albertville, Arab, Ashland, Athens, Atmore, Bessemer, Birmingham, Columbia, Columbiana, Courtland, Cullman, Decatur, Dothan, Eufaula, Fairhope, Florence, Greensboro and Heflin.
Also participating are: Huntsville, Madison, Mobile, Monroeville, Montevallo, Montgomery, Mooresville, Phenix City, Prattville, Selma, Sheffield, Sylacauga, Troy, Tuscumbia and Wetumpka.