City Council member Michele Mizzell is the founder and organizer of the Race to Save the Gristmill, with its fourth running coming up next weekend in downtown Childersburg.
Runners, walkers and people who are willing to make a donation to help save the mill are welcome to participate. Mizzell hopes to raise $2,500- $3,000 this year.
Volunteers and public officials in Childersburg have been trying for about six years to find a way to rescue the Kymulga Grist Mill.
Originally powered by the water flowing down Talladega Creek, much of the mill building extends over the creek bank with timbers in the creek bed provided support. Since the mill was built in 1859, there’s been a lot of water flowing under the mill. The aging of the timbers and the natural effects of water on the creek bed and bank are threatening to destroy the mill. A failure of the foundation would send the structure crashing into the creek.
It’s not a question of if, but when the mill will collapse, unless something is done to prevent it.
A year ago, on the advice of an engineering firm, the mill was closed to tours because it was just too risky to keep allowing people inside.
Initial estimates of a quarter million to a million dollars to shore up the foundation were out of reach for local volunteers.
But a new plan proposed last year is now taking shape that could get the job done. A dam upstream from the mill is being built to divert water into the original slave-dug diversion canal used when the mill was originally constructed. Steel for a new supporting structure has been purchased, and is being worked into shape by Reeson Pipe Fabrication, a Childersburg company donating labor to help with the project. Conn Equipment is also helping. Loads of rock are being hauled in for the dam.
The City of Childersburg obtained the property from Talladega County in 2011 and supports renovations through the Childersburg Historic Preservation Committee.
Mills still standing on their original locations are rare. Mills with an original covered bridge on the same site are even more scarce. The Kymulga mill and covered bridge are unique to Alabama.
In addition to the mill, nature trails invite visitors to enjoy the nearby forest, and special events at the mill offer family entertainment several times during the year. Facilities for social events are also available, and canoes and flat bottomed boats are available for rent to enjoy the creek.
The mill, bridge and park offer a glimpse into the past and an opportunity to experience nature in a convenient setting.
Much work remains to be done, and more funds will be needed to complete it. The Kymulga park is well worth saving, and there is an urgency to complete the foundation work before the mill is lost forever. The Race to Save the Gristmill is an important part of the effort to help get the job done.