By Sarrah Peters/News Editor
Ed Whatley passed away Sunday, January 6 at age 75, but his legacy as an advocate of local hiking trails remains.
In August 2014, Noccalula Falls Park held a ribbon cutting for an expansion of the Black Creek Trail system. Whatley was an advocate for the trail system and worked tirelessly to open the trails, even donating land to the City of Gadsden for the trails. To honor him, one of the trails in the 2014 expansion bears his name.
“I just want to thank each individual and each group of individuals that had anything to do with naming one of these trails after me,” said Whatley at the event. “You have no idea how much that means to me.”
Whatley’s love of the trails at Noccalula Falls Park was evident to anyone who encountered him. He hosted tours of the trail system, which he would often invite people on, and was frequently on the trails getting to know the people that used them.
Whatley was also a regular attendee of city council meetings. At the Gadsden City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 8, council members spoke of his dedication and love of Gadsden.
“He was a true gentleman,” said District 2 Councilman Deverick Williams. “He wasn’t just a fanatic about walking trails, Ed was a fact, data-driven supporter and proponent of that aspect. We really appreciate all that he has offered to the city and we are going to miss him.”
“Mr. Whatley, what a giant in this community,” said District 5 City Councilman Jason Wilson. “I spent hours on Mr. Whatley’s back porch up on Noccalula Mountain talking about his vision for the trail system and tourism as an economic development tool for the City of Gadsden and he certainly deserves the recognition for the impact that that Noccalula Falls Park area has had.”
“His legacy will always be remembered,” said former State Representative Craig Ford. “If all our citizens cared about Gadsden and Etowah County half as much as Mr. Whatley did, the area’s quality of life would surpass all of our expectations.”