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  • Phillip Ratliff, Backstory Educational Media

When you believe in the project, sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

This month, B Metro published my short article on the the Birmingham Industrial Heritage Trail project. It was an insider's view of this ambitious plan to connect several of the city's green spaces using virtual interpretation. Participating sites include Railroad Park, Vulcan Park and Museum, Tannehill State Park, Sloss Furnaces, and Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve. Soon, visitors to those sites can use a GPS activated platform called TravelStorys GPS to access oral histories, site-specific music and video, and historical narratives -- and hopefully be nudged to step out from those sites onto emerging connecting corridors.

My work with the Birmingham Industrial Heritage Trail project has been through my consulting biz, Backstory Educational Media. Backstory and I have gained several clients since opening the doors last September. Birmingham Industrial Heritage Trail project is unique in a couple of respects. First, my involvement is fairly all encompassing, from fundraising to content creation. Second, I took the gig knowing that I'd have to raise my fee. I knew the project was a winner and that wouldn't be any problem, if I bore down on the fundraising for the first three or four months of the project.

The plan is working. This week, Backstory was able to submit its first invoice.

Backstory hit that milestone thanks to the results from our first round of grant writing efforts. In September, the Birmingham Industrial Heritage Trail project had zero dollars in its bank account. (That's a turn of phrase, actually. We didn't even have a bank account.) Through some pretty clever and optimistic fundraising, we've grown that to a respectable $60,000*.

What does that little nest egg allow? Lots. In January, we're poised to begin surveying our anchor sites and the surrounding areas to identify the assets we'll be interpreting and stories we'll be telling. We'll lay out the first draft of our virtual trail, drawing from the mother of all trails, the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System. We'll also begin branding the project. By May, the Birmingham Industrial Heritage Trail will have a functional skeleton.

From there, it's back to fundraising. But thanks to the results from our granting organizations, I am more confident than ever that we'll be successful.

* I originally posted the total at $40,000. About a week later, I revised the total to $55k. Then a smaller award came in on the last of our fall grant applications, bringing the total to where it remains.

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