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/

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 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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TCNP Currents: Turkey Creek Nature Preserve visitor Questionnaire

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is still relatively new, in fact, we celebrate our 5th year in operation this year! We have a lot of plans in the works to provide new opportunities for the public to enjoy the Preserve. To help us with our planning, we wanted to give you the opportunity to let us know what you think. Below is a link to a survey. This survey will help us to better understand how you use the Preserve, and how we can continue to improve it.

Click Here to start survey!

If we get enough responses, for next month’s column, I will address some of the more popular questions or concerns that come up. So, if you have something to say, now is the time!

Thank you so much for your support.

Until then, we’ll see ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve
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2014 Tree Giveaway

The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve would like to thank everyone that came out on Saturday, February 8th, 2014, the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve to support our first ever Tree Giveaway for the community of Pinson. This very special event was part of a statewide effort, lead by the Alabama Forestry Commission and the Arbor Day Foundation, to help communities impacted by the 2011 tornadoes. During our tree-age (triage, get it?) 1,500 trees were given away by the Friends of Turkey Creek volunteer group.  Also, on-hand to answer any tree care questions during the event, were horticulture experts from the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Jefferson County Storm Water Authority.

Trees provide many very important ecological services for our society, such as clean air, clean water, erosion control, and of course general beautification. Unfortunately, sever weather, and development contributes to the loss of many trees and the services they provide us, every year. We hope that these trees will help make our community a cleaner, greener place.

There are still a few trees left, if you are interested in one of these trees or have any questions about caring for your trees, please feel free to email TCNP at cyeager@bsc.edu or call us at 205.680.4116.

This event would not have been possible without the help of volunteers from the Friends of Turkey Creek that worked hard all morning to label and pass out trees. If you would like to learn more about how you can support the Friends of Turkey Creek, please visit their Facebook page!

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Pinson Tree Giveaway at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson, Alabama has partnered with the the Alabama Forestry Commission and the Arbor Day Foundation for a Tree Giveaway on February 8th. This event is part of a a statewide effort to provide seedlings to communities effected by the 2011 tornadoes.

The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve Tree Giveaway will be held at the “Falls” parking area starting at 10am on February 8th, and will continue until all the trees have been handed out.

The free seedlings available will include:

Flowering Dogwood

Shumard Oak

Eastern Redbud

Blackgum

Bald Cypress

For more information about the Pinson Tree Giveaway contact TCNP by phone at 205.680.4116 or by email at cyeager@bsc.edu

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JeffCO H20: Take the ‘Hazard’ out of Household Hazardous Waste

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The start of a new year often inspires us to get rid of clutter and organize our living space.  Sometimes we even become motivated enough to tackle what’s stacked in the garage, stuffed under the kitchen sink, or gathering dust in the pantry.  Often that includes a collection of old household products that we no longer need.  Before tossing these unwanted items into the trash, first take a look at what your collection includes.

Many products like drain openers, automotive fluids, adhesives, batteries, oil based paint, solvents, and cleaners containing bleach are considered to be household hazardous waste (HHW) because they contain corrosive, toxic, flammable, or reactive ingredients.  It is unsafe when these items are discarded with regular household trash, since some can emit harmful fumes or create a dangerous reaction if mixed with other chemicals.  And any of these products spilled on the ground can harm water quality in local creeks and streams when washed by rain into the nearest storm drain.  That’s why HHW requires special handling by a facility which accepts these items.

Some local municipalities offer opportunities for residents to drop off HHW.  If you live in an unincorporated area, the Alabama Environmental Center (AEC) website (aeconline.org/recycling) is a great resource for locating facilities which accept specific types of HHW.  One of those facilities is Mercedes Benz U.S. International (205-507-3300) in Vance which accepts HHW from the public at its Plant 2 on the third Friday of each month from 5 am – 8 am and 1 pm – 6 pm.

Certainly there are some household tasks that require specialized products for which there is no substitute.  When purchasing this type of product, try to buy just enough for the job to eliminate leftovers.  But in many cases, you can choose a less toxic approach to handle most household cleaning jobs.  Items found in your kitchen or bathroom easily can be used to make safe, inexpensive cleaners.  They are better for your family’s health and the environment, and they help reduce the need to purchase more toxic products.

There are many tips and recipes available online for making your own cleaning products.  Here are just a few:  Want to make your windows sparkle?  Mix a few tablespoons of white vinegar with water in a spray bottle, lightly spray the glass, and wipe dry with newspaper or a microfiber cloth.  Need to scrub the sink or tub?  A few sprinkles of baking soda or salt on a damp sponge should do the trick.  Add a splash of hydrogen peroxide to remove stains and mildew.  Time to disinfect the counter?  Heat 1 cup of undiluted white vinegar to 150º and carefully pour into a spray bottle. Spray the warm vinegar on the counter, let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe dry.  Got pesky streaks on the mirror?  Equal amounts of white vinegar, distilled water, and alcohol sprayed on the mirror and wiped clean with a microfiber cloth will give your reflection perfection in no time.  Fingerprints on the furniture?  A few drops of olive oil and white vinegar rubbed onto furniture with a soft cloth can make wood shine.  Want more?  A good place to start is GreenerChoices.org.

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

TCNP Currents: Bama Brookies

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Rare and Beautiful Jewels in the Heart of Dixie

Story By: J.T. Armstrong

Photos By: C.B. Crumpler

I continue rolling, eventually surpassing the shadows cast by the Birmingham skyline.   A short stretch on the interstate then take a left and go through the industrial district then through one of the poorer areas within the metro perimeter.  Turn left at the Jet-Pep with the bathrooms connected to the car wash and another few hundred feet and I’m by the creek.  I piece together the 5-weight and string my line through the guides, tie on some 5x.  Some bugs are coming off so I peruse through my box until I find it.  Something small, dark and can float.  Not too small, size 14, maybe 12.  I can never tell.

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I’m not a very good caster, or fisherman, but the majority of my casts fall within the banks, which (in theory) greatly increase my odds.  So I fling the fly around, and it sometimes lands in the water.  It takes a few drifts until something darts from the shadows and smashes the dry, taking it deep beneath the surface in one vicious exhibition of murderous intent.  The line tightens and sings and the rod bends and a few seconds later I lift the quarter-pound exterminator out of the water.  Blood red eyes and a fluorescent turquoise gill plate, some of the loudest colors I’ve seen on a fish.  And not a trout fish.  A bass fish. A redeye bass.

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The first time I heard the expression “Bama Brookie”, I was immediately disgusted.  Here in the heart of Dixie, when we slap our regional brand on an existing item it usually involves either making it accessible to the illiterate or deep frying it.  Maybe both.  My observations have shown there is a large overlap between people who are non-readers and people who like fried stuff.

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“Bama Brookie”seemed to equivocate a small bass with something that really is special, like the native brook trout that abound in Southern Appalachia.   The term brought to mind images of rednecks yanking half pounders out of a pond and considering their experience paramount to those who stalk fish high in the mountains of Tennessee.

I kept this notion until the first time I waded into this creek, the 65 degree current pushing past my knees.  I could still see my toes.  I ducked beneath overhanging limbs and branches of oak and pine and honeysuckle.  I think I tied on some yellow popper or something similar, something that I often use to catch dumb fish.  I began to cast and I watched multiple refusals so I began the countless iterations of explorations into the box and downsizing of tippets.  4x then 5x then smaller poppers and crawfish patterns and then a dry and then a dropper.  In some final attempt brought on by desperation I tossed a small foam hopper and dropped a stone fly on some tiny strand of tippet.  I made a tolerable cast upstream and mended up and then down, a driftless drag, and suddenly I saw the piece of foam jerk underwater and begin fleeing upstream.  When I finally pulled him out of the water I found a 4 inch fish hung on my size 8 stonefly.  I found some tiny, peacock colored bass who thought he was a trout in some river which thought it belonged in some other state, in some higher elevation.  I found something that felt very different than what I expected.

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Until recently, only one species has been recognized as the Redeye bass, but biological studies have shown that there are actually species-level variations that result in multiple different species comprising the “Redeye Bass” family.  The colors of each species vary from bright blue lateral lines to deep greens, from rich crimson eyes to stark and startling reds.  My first encounter was nearly frightening, staring into the hemorrhaging eyes of some small predator that seemed hell bent on escaping my grasp.  The colors and beauty only extend so far.  Underneath it is a slight reflection of the natives of this state: they can be fooled, repeatedly even, but they are never any less angry about it.

I spent some brief time with a local biologist who tried (God bless his soul) to explain the diet of these fish.  This resulted mostly in confusion and nausea on my part, but I managed to extract “hellgrammite” and “some other surface bugs” from the conversation.  Basically, these are small, beautifully colored fish that subsist primarily on insects with a propensity for looking up and thriving in cool flowing rivers.  Which kinda sounds similar to another highly sought after fish that thrives in cool mountain streams.  But these are, you know, in Alabama…

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For years I have been jealous of another city located about 200 miles east of where I live and work.  There is a large, cold flowing river that runs through it and rainbow and brown trout and shoal bass and striper thrive and are caught regularly.  The citizens post pictures of rose-cheeked fish and fish with dark spots surrounded by rings of bright red.  And I was always jealous of those anglers and what great opportunity they had.  To stop by after a day at the office to see what beautiful creatures they could conjure out of the water by using small flies and small tippets and complicated drifts.  But there are days when I sneak out of the office and drive down the interstate, past the Jet-Pep with the bathrooms connected to the car wash, and I stand in the cool waters and toss small patterns to skittish fish who view 4x like it’s rope.  And sometimes I catch them and look at their bright blue sides and angry red eyes and I’m not really jealous of anyone.

Story By: J.T. Armstrong

Photos By: C.B. Crumpler

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Editor’s Note: This piece was provided courtesy of Revive Fly Fishing Magazine. Please visit http://reviveflyfishing.com for more beautiful photo-essays and stories like this one.

Before your next visit to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, please be sure you are aware of our Fishing Regulations.

Thank you so much Revive for sharing your piece on Turkey Creek, we hope to see you at the creek again soon!

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TCNP Currents: Trek Birmingham

For well over a hundred years, the Birmingham area has been known for the vast wealth of natural resources that can be found in its surrounding mountains, valleys, and waterways. These resources contributed greatly to the area developing into one of the most productive industrial centers in the southeastern United States. Slowly catching attention is Birmingham’s other natural resource, greenspace. In fact, Birmingham leads the nation in per capita public greenspace, with 17.9 acres per 1,000 residents.  With so much greenspace, there are now more options than ever for residents (and visitors) to get active outside.

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To help visitors on their way, Birmingham-Southern College’s Urban Environmental Studies program has developed Trek Birmingham, an online guide for many of the area’s most popular outdoor destinations.

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The site features informative articles on each location’s attractions, activities, history, and natural features. The site’s developers have gone above and beyond to provide an in-depth look at what is unique or interesting at each site. For example, on the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve page, scroll to the bottom and be sure to check out the articles labeled: “ECOREGION”, “GEOLOGY”, “WATERSHED”, and “BIODIVERSITY”.

Here is a short excerpt from the Trek Birmingham article on Turkey Creek’s Biodiversity, by Dr. Scott Duncan, author of Southern Wonder: Alabama’s Surprising Biodiversity:

The rich biodiversity of central Alabama is the result of many complex and inter-related factors. As each kind of habitat supports a characteristic flora and fauna, a mosaic of different habitats as found in parts of Turkey Creek could contribute to more unique discoveries. In the case of Turkey Creek, biodiversity is expressed in the 3 unique darter fish. The conditions that allow these rare beauties refuge may also open other niches for other animals as well as plants.  Unique water quality and geology could also allow others to be found. TCNP and the State Lands Division carefully survey the property for unique plant of animal species and protect the area from disturbance.

For the rest of this article, and more about Birmingham’s amazing natural resources, please visit http://trekbirmingham.com. With so many options, Birmingham is sure to surprise even you. So get out and see it for yourself.

Until then, we’ll see ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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

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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.

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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.

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

Today, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is a beautiful area for recreation and relaxation, but it was a long fight to establish the preserve.  Turkey Creek Nature Preserve wouldn’t have been possible without may dedicated partnerships, including a very important group of Pinson citizens, organized under the name S.T.A.R.T., or Society To Advance the Resources at Turkey Creek.

In 1998 the prison in downtown Birmingham was becoming overcrowded and Jefferson County had begun searching for a site for a second prison.  After much searching, the area that is now Turkey Creek Nature Preserve was proposed as a location.  Jefferson County hoped to build a new jail to house 900 minimum to moderate security prisoners, a $50 million project.  This plan was opposed by many Pinson citizens.  With a desire to protect the beloved Turkey Creek site, a local grassroots organization, S.T.A.R.T. (Society To Advance the Resources at Turkey Creek), formed and grew to 7,000 members.

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                S.T.A.R.T. had many reasons to oppose the jail site—the lands was in a residential area, which is not only undesirable but would also lead to decreased property values, the area was rich with history and Native American artifacts had been found in the jail site, and the construction of the jail had to potential to seriously harm the localized vermillion darter population, an endangered fish found only in Turkey Creek.  With these reasons in mind, S.T.A.R.T. began to meet and organize with the goal to stop the construction of the jail at Turkey Creek and to preserve the land for future generations.

S.T.A.R.T. became very active as the members fundraised for their work, attended commissioner meetings and met with city and county officials.  It turned out that Jefferson County was not only looking for a jail site, but also tracts of land to preserve, and Turkey Creek was proposed for both projects.  This helped spark the idea that, if the jail could be avoided, the Turkey Creek could become a preserve for education and recreation.  However, before much headway could be made in preserving the land, a new jail site had to be found.  S.T.A.R.T. members were clear in meetings with the commissioner that they did not oppose the creation of a new jail to decrease overcrowding, only the proposed site of the jail.  With this view, S.T.A.R.T. had the support of the district’s commissioner, Bettye Fine Collins, though they still had to convince the county.  S.T.A.R.T. co-founder and vice president, Mike Hamilton, went so far as to talk to then-mayor Richard Arrington about alternatives for the jail site, even proposing an old US Steel Property in Ensley.

By November of 1998, S.T.A.R.T. had won its first battle, as plans for the Turkey Creek Prison site were discarded.  However, there was still a long way to go in deciding the future of the Turkey Creek land.  The citizens of Pinson could rest easy though, as S.T.A.R.T. was becoming one of the most successful grassroots efforts of all time and a prison would not be in their backyard.

Part two of the S.T.A.R.T. story and the work to protect Turkey Creek can be found HERE!

This blog 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.

TCNP Currents: Summer Time Tips

The Falls

Now that summer has finally arrived, those seeking refuge from the heat are flocking to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. And why not? Turkey Creek offers some of the cleanest, coolest waters in town, not to mention breath-taking beauty.  Everyone seems to have their favorite shady spot for picnicking or reflecting as they watch the water flow by.

Since the crowds are growing thicker, it seems like a good time to discuss a few tips for how you and your family can make the most of your visit.

TCNP TIP #1: Always follow the rules!

No one wants to have their time or worse yet, their family’s time cut short because they could not follow the rules. This happens more often than it should, so please, make a point to review all Preserve’s regulations prior to your visit, which can be found HERE or on any of the Preserve’s kiosks. Please note that anyone found not adhering to these rules, will be asked to leave immediately. There is no excuse for not knowing.

TCNP TIP #2: Know the Hours of Operation and plan accordingly

It is easily the most common question by visitors to TCNP: “What are the operational hours?”. Well, this is a very easy one: Wednesday through Sunday we close at 5:30pm.  We are closed all day on Mondays and Tuesdays. On Friday and Saturday morning we have special “Pedestrian Only” hours from 7am-9am. At 9am regular motor traffic is allowed in. On all the other days (Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday) we open at 8am.

TCNP TIP #3: Come early or on a slow day

Anyone that has visited TCNP on a weekend knows how busy it can become and how difficult it can be at times to find a parking or picnic spot.  The simplest way to avoid this headache is to visit during off-peak hours.  I have spent over a year and a half watching the traffic and I am more than happy to share what I have observed. Come Early: traffic at TCNP (even on weekends) tends to be at it’s height in the hotter parts of the day. Visitors that come out early get the best parking/picnic spots.  Thursdays:  If you can swing it, a Thursday is the best time to come out and find a spot to yourself. Wednesdays and Fridays can be just as busy as a weekend, but for some reason, Thursdays are usually quite slow.

TCNP TIP #4: Stay Hydrated

On a hot summer’s day, there is nothing better than cooling off in the refreshing waters of Turkey Creek. However, even in that cool water, you can quickly become dehydrated.  This happens quickly, and without a lot of warning at times. So, please drink a lot of water during your visit. It could save your life. Plus, it is never ends well if you are dizzy on slippery rocks!

TCNP TIP #5: There is more to TCNP than just “The Falls”

There is no doubt, The Falls offer some of the most majestic beauty TCNP has to offer. Their unique features bring many visitors to Turkey Creek, but they are often times quite crowded. For those of you that wish to enjoy the waters of TCNP or avoid the crowds, seek spots upstream of The Falls.  These upper reaches offer some equally stunning views of Turkey Creek, as well as some great spots to lounge in the shade. Furthermore, TCNP has recently added a mile and a half of beautiful new trail along the ridge above Turkey Creek. This offers visitors the opportunity park in the Highlands picnic area and hike to The Falls area.

Thank you for reading, I hope that these tips help you to better enjoy your next visit to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.

Please remember, that we do not charge admission, and it is very difficult and expensive to keep the Preserve clean. On your next visit, take a look around you before you leave and pick up any trash (even if it is not yours). It will go a long way to making sure that others are able to enjoy TCNP as you have, and will help keep operational costs down.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at cyeager@bsc.edu.

Next week, contributing author Lyn DiClementel, will provide readers with some insight into the importance of controlling stormwater runoff in her column JeffCo H2O.”

Until then, we’ll see ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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StoneShovel: A Bio Blitz Summary

1(DuPont Thompson’s Bridge)

First off let me say I am not a biologist, ecologist, scientist by training but these fields and what they investigate are of immense interest to me. Coming from a background in art I have spent the better part of my life observing and recording what I see & experience. There are not to many times this has not served me well. A couple weeks ago there was a bio blitz at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. For those not familiar it is an intense look into the life forms and the environment of a particular area. This can be expanded on but the best way to understand how it works is to be involved with one and I will do my best to relate my experiences and thoughts on it.

To start dress appropriately, sturdy shoes, wet weather gear since it is a rain or shine event and salamanders enjoy that sort of thing. Layers are a good bet since its Alabama weather so you can bet it will change. Finally something to record what you see, pen and paper or in this case species lists and pencils.

IMG_6622BioBlitz participants discover TCNP’s rich ecological diversity

We met near the entrance gate to the preserve and the weather was wet and chilly so we made sure to get in the drainage swale and turn over rocks and piles of leaf litter. What? you say. why yes because thats precisely where we find Mr Slimy salamander. That and about half a dozen cranefly larvae. Let me start with Slimy or Plethodon mississippi Slimy Salamander                                                             Slimy Salamander (Plethodon mississippi)

as the name suggest this fellow can excrete a slime like substance, despite this it is a handsome black with white spots and can reach 4- 7 inches in length. Just try to get him steady on a measuring tape though. We would find many more his/her kin throughout the day.
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Crane Fly larvae (Tipulidae sp.)

The cranefly larvae was rather strange, imagine a small almond sized sack much like a bellows or accordion texture with a star shaped mouth that just wriggles around in the muck. To me it looks like it is food for other swifter predators ie Slimy! That’s another story. Interestingly there is an orchid by the name Cranefly orchid whose root looks somewhat similar to the larvae I just described.

That was how it started and as usual the further we wandered into the preserve the more we got ‘distracted’ by this or that. For me its plants. I was called ‘the plant guy’ and though I have no formal training to ID plants I enjoy trying to figure them out. The biodiversity of this 460 odd acres is impressive. If we think about the terrain for a
minute we have floodplain or riparian zone adjacent to the creek, which is right next to montane and rock outcrop habitats that blend into Longleaf pine and mixed hardwood forests. Blue Hole

Searching the rocks at Blue Hole

Each of these has its north and south facing slopes morning or afternoon sun exposures adding the fact it has been protected from development (thankfully) it can be a refugia of sorts for many types of plants. A great example of this is the Blue hole area where many folks swim and fish. Across the street we found Mountain Laurel, Prickly pear and Styrax americanus in full bloom!IMG_6583

American Snowbell Tree (Styrax americanus)

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Fire Pink (Silene virginica)

The Firepinks or Silene virginica were also in bloom. Blue clusters of Houstonia and hairyleaved Hieracium gronovii carpeted the mossy slopes beneath the beech and pine trees, which literally look like they are falling slowly down the hill. IMG_6618

Queendevil (Hieracium gronovii)

IMG_6593Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginea)

Around the bend we follow our a trail up the slope past Paw Paw -Asimina triloba, Witch hazel Hammamelis virginiana and Heuchera americana or Alumroot. I am trying to look, hike and write all at the same time which, as impossible as it sounds, can be done but one ends up with a face full of branches if one is not swift enough. As we break into the sunlight atop the hill a sweet patch of sandstone greets us, great loaves of lichen covered rock turned sideways or on end depending on your perspective to catch the sandy gritty soils and natural debris. “Perfect timber rattler habitat.” Andy Gannon says with a grin. “Oh ok. Cool.” I say, but I am really focusing even more on the plants. Virginia pine hangs on the edges with many bluestem grasses, cat brier or
Smilax, beautyberry, and.. wait! Is that what i think it is!

IMG_6604Wild Pink (Silene caroliniana)

There is always one of those moments at a bio blitz, for me it was with a plant I first encountered several years ago in that same location. I could not identify it then and the picture I had was not detailed enough to get any of my plant geek friends interested.But this time I was in better company and had the benefit of taking some great courses at the Botanical gardens in Birmingham through Certificate in Native Plant Studies. I highly recommend these for the amateur or professional the subjects range from botany, taxonomy, propagation and many more. Anyway I digress. So, with more information and confidence and a better way to address my subject, I was able to inspect the plant closely and see that It had the same white flowers I remembered but was not a phlox as I had first guessed. The flower parts were external and with many phlox blooms the parts are inside the floral tube. Also the shape of the petals was not like a phlox. The leaves were fleshier and about 2 inches long and narrow with a slight widening at the tip, I remembered seeing the firepink near bluehole and thought this cannot be coincidental. Comparative analysis helped me narrow it down but my gut was telling me Silene but which one? We will have to find out later.

It is such an honor to be able to interact with the world in this way not as a taker but more as an observer. We do our best to put things back as wen find them while keeping some of the more interesting critters out for show and tell. A small scorpion
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Cave Scorpion  (Amblypygi sp.)

was plucked from its damp mossy cave as was a snake or two! The Midland water snake or Nerodia sipedon is an impressive specimen its musk is impressive as well..they can reach 50 inches or more and are mistaken for cottonmouth or copperheads. IMG_6650

Midland water snake (Nerodia sipedon)

Handling wild animals should be done by qualified persons or certifiable persons. But seriously, approach with caution and respect.

Once back at base camp, another biologist Scott Duncan, was able to verify that I had seen a silene as there were other populations found in the water shed. When I met with a native plant expert named Jan Midgley I found it was Silene caroliniana. It inhabits dry or well drained sites, rock outcrops, does not get very tall and ranges from white to pink in its flower habit.

IMG_6657Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra)

Oh wait there’s more under the pile of old roofing. A king snake who also is rather musky, was waiting for sunnier days, these snakes will eat poisonous snakes so if you like that idea let these guys live under your wood pile a while.

The interesting thing here is not everything we come across is clearly identifiable right away in my own notes I recorded over 150 plants ( many I had seen prior to this event and are a separate list) Each person will gravitate to different things and some have areas of expertise and so on so that will influence what is recorded. Its encouraging to know there are still some discoveries to make even when its just off the side of a road
near a place called Turkey Creek. I will be back to explore some more later this year and I was glad to participate in the event.

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Mystery Moth (unknown)

Arnold Rutkis is Stoneshovel designing naturalistic, edible, earth and stone landscapes.His website is http://www.stoneshovel.com or his blog at stoneshovel.wordpress.com you can see some of his work near the falls at Turkey Creek Preserve in the Eco scape there.

TCNP Currents: The Hanby Enterprise Part 2

This month, we will conclude The Hanby Enterprise story at Turkey Creek. Part 1 of this can be found HERE.

David Hanby was around the age of 18 when he moved to Alabama with his father. He was around 26 when he helped his father, John Hanby, construct the Hanby Mill and forge on Turkey Creek. Richard Anderson suspects that in addition to John’s age, the extreme labor demands required in blacksmithing meant that, David was likely to have taken over most of these duties by the late 1820s.

Realizing the potential wealth of central Alabama’s natural resources, David’s efforts to expand the enterprises he helped his father create did not end at blacksmithing and milling. According to Dr. Allen J. Tower, in his article entitled “The Changing Economy of Birmingham and Jefferson County” Published in the Journal of Birmingham Historical Society (January 1960), around 1840 David began mining and selling coal.  This operation was not quite as straight forward as it might sound, however, because the most lucrative market for coal at the time was in Mobile, Alabama.  To reach Mobile, David, yet again, utilized Alabama’s rich resources: its interconnected water ways (since there were no railroads in the area until the 1880s). Using 25 foot long “flatboats” packed with coal, David traveled from the Mulberry Fork to the Black Warrior River and all the way down to Mobile Bay. After arriving in Mobile and selling his cargo, he would disassemble the flatboats and sell the lumber.  This must have proved to be a particularly lucrative venture, since Dr. Tower notes that by 1844 David braved this journey up to ten times a year.

flatboat

Above: An example of a typical flatboat used during Hanby’s time

Time and age grind away, and what was once new and lucrative will eventually find itself worn and brittle. Despite the prosperity and scope of the Hanby enterprise, it too, was subject to the terms of age. In 1865, David’s life came to an end when a brigade in Union General Croxton’s forces killed David, and destroyed his operations at Turkey Creek.  While it remains unclear why the Hanbys were targeted for this assault, we do know that Croxton’s mission was to destroy Confederate supply lines and manufacturing sources. It can be assumed that the Hanby operation was providing the Confederate army with munitions or other goods.  Further expounding this mystery is the circumstance surrounding David’s demise. One local legend suggests that while on a hog hunt, David in his advanced years, decided to take a nap under a tree.  While napping, Union troops advanced on David’s position, startling him out of his sleep. When asked to lower his hunting rifle by Union troops, David who was partially deaf, only starred back in surprise at the soldiers. Feeling left without any other recourse, the soldiers tragically fired on David.  After David’s death, his wife sold his property along Turkey Creek to William Nabers, effectively ending all operations at Turkey Creek.

Today, after years of natural and human disturbances, very little remains at Turkey Creek to suggest the scope of the operations that once existed there.  What does remain is a wealth of history and stories told by a community that shares a passionate respect for their forefathers and the painstaking efforts they took to settle this area. So, on your next visit to the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, keep these stories in mind, but please, respect the preservation of this history by leaving it as you found it for future generations.

For more information related to the history of the Preserve, come out for one of our Living History Programs. Event dates can be found on our events calendar.

Next week, contributing author Lyn DiClementel, will explore the importance of finding the right balance when comes to applying chemicals to their lawn or garden in the JeffCo H2O column.

Until then, we’ll see ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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Historical details and images are an interpretation of Richard K. Anderson, Jr findings published in “Turkey Creek Cultural Resource Mapping Project for Proposed Turkey Creek Preserve Pinson, Alabama” 2002