Geology of George Ward Park

The city of Birmingham contains a unique geological occurrence in which a variety of rocks and minerals needed for iron and steel production are found with a small geographical location. The city flouished due to close proximity of iron, limestone, and coal; a rare phenomenon that was one of the richest mineral deposits in the world. This unique and diverse geology is on full display in George Ward Park. The park itself is 680 feet above sea level and is divided into two distinct geological sections by a normal fault. The north-western portion of the park is Ketona Dolomite. It contains some of the purest dolomite in the city and from it is drawn the majority of the rocks used as flux in the Birmingham iron industry. The flux was an important part of the iron industry and purified the otherwise low quality iron found in the area. The south-eastern section of the park consists of Copper Ridge Dolomite, which is a rare surface occurrence that appears mostly in the Birmingham region. Copper Ridge Dolomite is usually covered by the Knox Group geologic formation, but due to geologic shifts, the Knox group became exposed and eroded exposing the Copper Ridge Dolomite formation.

Just like the geologic make-up of the park, the surface soil is broken up into two distinct groups as well. The north-western portion of the park has been developed the most, and therefor consists mostly of “urban land,” which is when the original soil has been moved or dug up in order for the area to be developed with manmade structures. The remaining exposed soil is comprised of Toledo type soil. Toledo soil is highly acidic, contains a high amount of clay, and has extremely poor drainage, limiting major development. The south-eastern portion of the park is made up of a Bodine-Birmingham soil complex. This soil complex is also extremely acidic, but unlike the Toledo soil, has high permeability and difficulty holding water. Because of this, both Toledo and Bodine-Birmingham soil complexes have difficulty maintaining plant life and are subject to erosion during periods of heavy rainfall. The soil types of the park make it difficult for major development, which is largely why George Ward Park was chosen as a recreational green space.

Written by BSC Students: Will Owens and Josh Patton, Fall 2013