TCNP Currents: Summer 2016 Legacy Environmental Intern Emma Gladstone

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2016 Legacy Summer Intern, Emma Gladstone

My name is Emma Gladstone and I am from Mary Esther, Florida. I am attending Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) and had the incredible opportunity to intern at the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. I grew up in a neighborhood that was five minutes from the beach and just a short walk from acres upon acres of longleaf pine forests. I grew up with a love and appreciation for nature. This passion for the environment is what led me to become an Urban Environmental Studies major at BSC. Through this major and school, I have been able to experience some of the most incredible places in Alabama. However, the place that stands out the most is Turkey Creek. The crystal clear, blue tinted, spring fed creek is breath taking. Along with the amazing rock faces and hiking trails that show the gorgeous trees and flowers of Alabama. This preserve is home to 7 endangered/threatened species. One of which is the Vermilion Darter. This vibrant, small fish is only found at Turkey Creek and nowhere else in the world. The rich history of this piece of land is full of evidence of Native Americans, first settlers here in Pinson, and the prison that led Turkey Creek to become a preserve just 7 years ago.

In my few times I visited Turkey Creek, I never learned as much as I did with interning in June and July. I have learned about all of the effort it takes to keep such a magnificent place safe and clean for people to continue to enjoy it. The hard work that is required for a non-profit is mind boggling, but incredibly rewarding. The passion the people who are involved with Turkey Creek is such an inspiration to me. To work hard for little pay, just to make a gorgeous place thrive into something better. I learned that a lot of people do not appreciate the preserve as much as others. I saw that there will be people to try and take advantage of this place in the wrong way, but those people stand short in comparison to the ones who love this place and help build it up.

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Emma teaching students this summer about TCNP biodiversity

In my experience I learned that environmental education is incredibly important and that kids do want to learn! I absolutely loved helping with the environmental programs and teaching the kids about why it’s important to help the nature that surrounds us. It was such a rewarding feeling to know that I taught a student who will know what a maple tree looks like or know that snakes are not as scary as they think. I enjoyed working with the volunteers; gardening, asking for donations, preparing for big events, cleaning up trash, and so much more. The experience of working with people who shared the same passion as I is something that I will treasure forever. I look forward to the day when I come back and see the bog garden at the front gate and I can say to my friends or family, “I helped create that beautiful bog garden right there. It took a lot of work, I carried almost every single one of those rocks you see, and it was one of the best experiences in my life at the time. I had the opportunity to create something amazing with strangers who simply shared the same passion as I and it turned out incredibly.”

Turkey creek is a place that you will not find anywhere else. The cool, refreshing water on a hot summers day does not compare to a beach. The gorgeous sunflowers and brilliant fish stand out from any others. The natural rock slide at the falls is truly special, with a giant rock to climb and see the wonderful curves of the creek. The trails show off the dense trees that create a beautiful green glow in the summer time. This place will forever have an impact on my life. If you want to experience something unique and special; go out to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. You will not be disappointed.

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Emma assisting Birmingham-Southern Professor, Scot Duncan and his student with stream ecology research in Turkey Creek.

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve Holiday Hours

To help you best plan your visits to TCNP during this season, please be aware that we will be closed to the public on the following dates:

  • Thursday, November 26th, 2015 (Thanksgiving)
  • Thursday, December 24th, 2015 (Christmas Eve)
  • Friday, December 25th, 2015 (Christmas Day)
  • Thursday, December 31st, 2015 (New Year’s Eve)
  • Friday, January 1st, 2016 (New Year’s Day)

We hope everyone has a very happy holiday season!

TCNP Currents: Reflections by Samantha Brasher, Legacy Summer Intern

IMG_1979Legacy Summer Intern Samantha Brasher at Tapawingo Springs

Legacy: Family and the Environment

            The word legacy has multiple, slightly varied definitions in the English language. It is most widely used in reference to money and/or property received after a person’s death. For my purposes, however, I will use Dictionary.com‘s second definition, which is, “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.” Note, that with only a slight change in wording, the meaning of legacy expands to include so much more than material things. For me, legacy has everything to do with family and the environment.

There are a few ways I can introduce myself…

  1. My name is Samantha Brasher. I am on track to earn my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Stewardship from the University of Montevallo in the spring of 2016. Upon graduation, I am eager to pursue a career specifically in informal environmental education from a Christian perspective.
  2. I am the Legacy, Partners in Environmental Education, Summer Intern for 2015 at the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson, AL.
  3. I am O.C. Brasher’s granddaughter.

For many, the latter introduction is perfectly sufficient. Oran Cleveland “O.C.” Brasher, who passed away in August of 2013, was a pillar of the Pinson community in which Turkey Creek is located. He played an instrumental role in the founding and operation of S.T.A.R.T. (Society to Advance the Resources of Turkey Creek), the grassroots organization that is responsible for the creation of Turkey Creek Nature Preserve as we know it today; served as one of the founders of my home Church, Turkey Creek Missionary Baptist Church, and left a legacy of morality, strength and love that can be felt by everyone who knew him. He was so much to so many people, but to me and my two cousins, he was simply “Paw Paw,” and that means more to me than anything else he ever did.

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(Check me out top left!)

            My Paw Paw loved Turkey Creek and he passed that love down to his children and grandchildren. Multiple branches of my family tree lived off of this land and likely rubbed elbows with famous Turkey Creek residents, John and David Hanby and R. Dupont Thompson. Turkey Creek, its history and all of the incredible variety of life contained within its boundaries are apart of my legacy and I feel a deep personal responsibility to care for it. However, my desire to care for Turkey Creek and all of creation is not based solely on my family’s legacy. As a Christian, I believe that God has called all mankind to serve as stewards of creation. The whole earth and everything in it is our legacy from God!

Becoming stewards of God’s creation is the main message of the fun, free new program I will be leading at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve this summer. Valuing God’s Variety: Biodiversity and the Bible– in which students of all ages will discover the value of biodiversity, the incredible variety of life, will only be offered June-July 2015, so if you are reading this post and would like to sign up a group please contact me ASAP at samantha.c.brasher@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you! And thanks so much for hearing a little bit more about me.

SBrasher2Learn more about Legacy’s programs and future internship opportunities at: http://legacyenved.org/

Samantha Brasher

legacy. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved June 15, 2015, from Dictionary.com             website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/legacy

TCNP Currents: Reflections

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These cool, overcast, winter days provide a great opportunity for reflection, if for no other reason than to help motivate us beyond the cold bite of the wind to move forward and make things happen. The last few years have been a whirlwind at the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. It has been difficult to keep up with all of the wonderful advancements and developments as they are occurring and almost impossible to share those things with the public, who will certainly enjoy them the most.

So it seems to be a good time to take a moment between meetings, planning sessions, and trying to catch up on the long list of maintenance, repairs, and improvements before the spring busy season to reflect on where we have come from and what direction we are headed.

Most of you know that the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve (TCNP) is still relatively young; it was not that long ago that people where dumping their trash along the banks that children now run up and down all summer long. We have come a long way in just 6 years. Every year the list of improvements and achievements seems nearly impossible to keep up with. We have been working so hard to improve Turkey Creek that we have really not done a good job of sharing all that we are doing for you.

Here is the short version of some of the things we have recently accomplished:

  • Recent Enhancements:
    • 5-Star Stream Bank Restoration Project: Restored over 100 feet of Turkey Creek’s banks with native vegetation, erosion control, creek access steps and a native plant propagation nursery.
    • Added visitor amenities including: improved trash cans, benches, picnic tables, and signs
    • Native Plant Pollinator Garden
    • Developed 3 miles of new trail (over the last 2 years)
    • Improved parking
    • Updated energy efficiency of Nature Center and Residence
    • Added Pedestrian Friendly hours on Friday and Saturday Mornings
  • 2014 Public and School Programming
    • Approximately 100,000 annual visitors to the Preserve
    • 113 programs with over 6,000 participants
    • 29 Public Events; Highlights include: Float Your Boat, Naturalist Hikes, and Living History Programs
    • 37 Service groups with over 500 participants
    • 45,000 blog views

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Even with all that has already been accomplished, we are not slowing down. Not even close! 2015 is already shaping up to be even busier than previous years with more public programs, educational offerings, and enhancements.

Here is a quick peek at what we already have in store for our visitors this year:

  • 3 miles of new multi-use trails for mountain biking, hiking, and cross-country running. Funding provided through a grant from ADECA’s RTP program.
  • 240+ acre addition that could host over 12 miles of new trails for the future
  • Amenity improvements: additional parking, changing rooms, enhanced security, handrails on stairs to the Falls, and more informational signage.
  • Wilderness Ranger Training provided by Wild South
  • Summer Camp Programs

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Proposed Multi-Use Trail System Map

Obviously, there is a lot going on, and a lot of reasons to come out and visit Turkey Creek Nature Preserve this year. However, even with all of the wonderful support that we are provided by our partners and volunteers, we still need your help to keep our operation functioning! Consider for a moment: we do not charge admission, we have only one full time staff member, and we are doing all of this on less than a shoestring budget. Imagine what we could do if we received more support from people like yourself.

What is Turkey Creek, all of the memories, fun, and discovery worth to you?

Remember while admission to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is always free, maintaining it is not!

If our visitors (like you!) were all willing to give just a little it could provide us the opportunity to give a lot!

Please take a moment and invest in the future of TCNP, if not for you, then for your community and the children that live there!

Visit: https://turkeycreeknp.wordpress.com/support-2/ to learn how you can make a difference.

 

See ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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TCNP Currents: The Future of Turkey Creek

Have you visited Turkey Creek Nature Preserve this year or in the last few years?

If you have, you are not alone! Every year approximately 100,000 families, kids, and outdoor enthusiast pass through our gates. With that many people visiting TCNP, you would think that donations would be arriving daily. Unfortunately that is far from the truth. Sadly, we almost never receive donations from the public. We have worked very hard to develop an experience for our guests that is unique in the state of Alabama and are constantly working to add new features that will further enhance that experience. However, in doing so, we have come up short in helping our visitors understand how we operate. The truth is that without more public support, TCNP could be forced to close its gates one day for good!

You may wonder why we do not charge admission. That is a very good question that does not have a simple answer. One of the problems with this suggestion is that we cannot pay someone to collect it. We only have 1 person on staff and spend money on materials only when they are absolutely necessary. Furthermore, TCNP is owned by State Lands (not state parks), meaning that we cannot collect admission. Even if we did charge admission, it would not go towards funding the Preserve specifically, but instead go to the Alabama state general fund. We do receive some support through grant funding, which we work extremely hard to obtain. But those grants do not keep fuel in the lawnmowers, pay for trash bags, or pay our manager.

Many of our visitors assume that we receive government funding. This is only partially true. We do receive about 30% of our annual budget from the City of Pinson, but the remaining 70% of our funding comes from the source that was originally developed to help start up the Preserve (check out the infographic below for more about TCNP funding). This source was never intended to last more than 1 or 2 years, however, we have stretched it out for over 5 years (which is in no small part due to the support from the City of Pinson)! Unfortunately, this source is just about gone and we are left with only one more year of funding. This is a pretty scary situation for everyone that is involved, and we have been working tirelessly to come up with a solution. The reality is, however, that if we do not start receiving more support from the people that use the Preserve, it might not continue to be available to them. This all comes across very dramatic, but it is true and something no one wants to see happen.

To put this into perspective, consider this: TCNP’s annual operational budget is only $60,000, which is 1/10th of the budget of other comparable parks/nature areas (like Ruffner Mountain or Red Mountain). While we would love to have more, so that we can provide more, this is only the bare minimum that we need to operate, and we do not have it.

So really, the only solution is for you to get involved! Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is a public place that benefits the public. Just like any other freely provided service, it is up to you to show how much it is worth to you. Even if you cannot give a lot, you should still consider giving, because if everyone who used the Preserve gave just a little, we would have no problems reaching our funding needs.

To find out how you can help please visit: https://turkeycreeknp.wordpress.com/support-2/

TCNP infographic 02-01

 

 See ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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The Darter Festival

The Darter Festival is a lively celebration of the Watercress Darter—a gorgeous fish that lives in Birmingham and nowhere else in the world! The Darter Festival will be held on Saturday, April 5th from 11 am to 4 pm at Railroad Park. We will feature performances by blues pianist Clay Swafford, rising indie stars The Heavy Hearts, and world music and dance with Jon Scalici and Erynias Tribe. Good People Brewing Company will feature the limited edition Darter Spring Ale, and the Fish Market will provide specialty dishes and a children’s menu. There will also be kite flying, darter art, and a Watercress Darter Photo Booth, sponsored by the Alumni Association of Birmingham-Southern College. The Darter Festival is free and open to the public. Proceeds benefit the Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham-Southern College and the Railroad Park Foundation. VIP packages are available by calling 205-226-7740 or going to http://www.bsc.edu/sec/darterfest.cfm

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