TCNP Currents: A fresh S.T.A.R.T. for Turkey Creek, Part 2

DSC_0143

At the end of the last post about S.T.A.R.T. (Society To Advance the Resources of Turkey Creek), the grassroots organization and the community of Pinson had successfully prevented a prison from being built at Turkey Creek, but S.T.A.R.T. was left to decide, What can we do for Turkey Creek now?

S.T.A.R.T. formed not only to relocate the prison, but also with the goal of protecting the beautiful area around Turkey Creek for future generations.  The members of S.T.A.R.T. came to the conclusion that the best way to reach this goal would be to create a nature preserve, where people would have a clean, safe place to relax, walk, swim, and enjoy this beautiful part of Pinson.  S.T.A.R.T. had the support of the area’s commissioner, Bettye Fine Collins, who created the Turkey Creek Watershed Committee as a starting point for creating the preserve.

S.T.A.R.T. was not only interested in protecting the land for the benefit of people, but also in knowing what animals could be protected by a nature preserve.  With S.T.A.R.T.’s support, the Department of Fish and Wildlife began surveying Turkey Creek.  Turkey Creek is home to three unique and rare darters—the vermillion, watercress, and rush darters.  After much surveying, the vermillion darter, found only in Turkey Creek’s drainage and tributaries, was designated as an endangered species in 2003.  S.T.A.R.T. now had a commitment to create a preserve not only for the enjoyment of Pinson citizens, but also to protect the habitat of Turkey Creek’s irreplaceable endangered fish.

DSC_0500Vermillion Darter (Center)

After much discussion, S.T.A.R.T. and the Turkey Creek Watershed Committee decided that the best course of action would be to nominate the Turkey Creek land to Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust as a preserve.  While S.T.A.R.T. nominated the area to Forever Wild in 2000, the area was not selected because multiple land owners owned the property.  S.T.A.R.T. took this setback in stride and began to find a way to consolidate the land ownership for the Turkey Creek property.

This was not a task S.T.A.R.T. could handle on their own, so the group partnered with the Freshwater Land Trust in 2001.  After many meetings and discussions between S.T.A.R.T., the Freshwater Land Trust, and local property owners, the land for Turkey Creek Nature Preserve was acquired by the Freshwater Land Trust.  S.T.A.R.T. could now go back to Forever Wild and propose the preserve with a single landowner.  Forever Wild unanimously approved the creation of Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in 2003.  When accepting the preserve, Forever Wild specifically acknowledged and admired S.T.A.R.T.’s hard work and years of dedication towards creating the preserve.

With the land now protected from any future development, the newly developed partnership between S.T.A.R.T., the Freshwater Land Trust, and Forever Wild reached out to Birmingham-Southern College’s Southern Environmental Center to provide onsite management and environmental education. Today, Birmingham-Southern College continues to provide some of the best opportunities for hands on, environmental education to thousands of students annually. Additionally, this partnership has lead to the further enhancement of the preserve’s recreational opportunities and overall safety.

Educational Programing: Aquatic Ecology Class
Educational Programing: Aquatic Ecology Class

It is due to the dedication of the Pinson community and S.T.A.R.T. that we have the amazing Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.  This area is unique, beautiful, and used by people from all over the Southeastern United States.  But just like the commitment to the area didn’t end once the prison plans were cancelled, the commitment continues past the creation of the preserve.  Turkey Creek Nature Preserve depends on the support of dedicated volunteers who help keep the preserve clean and enjoyable for all.  Without support and commitment from the Pinson community, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve would not exist.

Please keep this story in mind, on your next visit to TCNP. It has, and continuous to take a lot of work to keep TCNP clean and beautiful. Make sure that you leave the preserve as you found it, or better! Also, please consider supporting TCNP either through volunteering or financial contributions. It will go along way towards ensuring it’s continued success in the future.

This post was written by Sarah Gilkerson.

Sarah is interning at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve this summer.  She is from Atlanta and attends Birmingham-Southern College where she is studying biology.  Outside of work, Sarah enjoys canoeing and comic books.

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