What’s the Buzz?

Apiphobia – the fear of bees.  Most of us were taught at a young age to be weary of anything that stings, bees being the main culprit.  From electric swatters to expert exterminators, we spend countless dollars trying to eradicate the very insects that need our protection.

            Bees are one example of a group known as pollinators – individuals who move pollen between flowers and instigate seed fertilization and reproduction.  Scientifically speaking, these individuals work as vectors to move pollen from male anthers to female stigma, which in turn fertilizes female gametes and allows reproduction to occur.  Simply put, pollinators allow flowers to come in contact with each other and make more seeds.  In Alabama, many of these pollinators include bees, wasps, hummingbirds, butterflies, ants, and bats – many are stigmatized as being dangerous and deadly.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) with bee

While the bee is the pollinator, the plant is the pollinizer and is the source of pollination for the bee. Many plants that require pollination include native beauties like purple coneflower (right) and Rudbeckia (below).  These plants rely on pollination to grow, mature, and reproduce.  In return, pollinators receive nectar and other pollen rewards from plants.  Nectar offers necessary carbohydrates and pollen has proteins, fats, and vitamins.  This mutualistic relationship works to keep each party alive and build families and generations. 

Rudbeckia triloba (Brown-Eyed Susan)

Plants need pollinators and vice versa, but why do we care – why do we need pollinators?  Firstly, pollinators not only fertilize pretty flowers.  They also pollinate over half of our crops.  Okra, potatoes, and onions are a few examples of the countless food items that need pollinators to produce yield.  Pollinators also direct biodiversity.  Areas that are abundant with pollinators will have more flowers, fruits, and more plant species overall.  Rich biodiversity not only indicates a healthy ecosystem but also provides food and habitat for more species.  Plants also lower levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, a conversation for another time.  More plants mean more animals, more clean air, more food, and more natural beauty. 

The takeaway?  We need pollinators and they need us.  Due to deforestation, urbanization, and erosion, pollinators are losing vital habitat and foraging space.  They are running out of places to live and feed.  Chemical pesticides also endanger pollinators, which in turn damages the many plants that rely on pollination.  Although there are large scale solutions like ending deforestation and reversing climate change, there is also a simple at home solution – plant a pollinator garden.  By planting certain flowering species, you can easily attract pollinators and supply the nutrients necessary for their survival.  Not sure where to begin with your pollinator garden?  Follow this list to get started.

  • Feed pollinators all year – Make sure to plant species that will flower at different times of the year.
  • Make it attractive – You want a home that looks loved and clean and so do your pollinators.
  • Have plant diversity – Pollinators all favor different foods, so make sure to plant a variety of food options.
  • Provide the necessities – Just like us, pollinators need shelter and water, so adding some spaces of shade and hydration will attract even more pollinators.
Liatris (Blazing Star)

Brianne Kendall

I am a junior at Birmingham-Southern College from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  I am studying Urban Environmental Science, with a double minor in math and religion, in the hopes of becoming the next Dian Fossey.  When I am not studying, you will either find me in the theatre department or the great outdoors.

Let’s Talk Trash

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is a natural wonder… but one thing that is not natural—or wonderful—is trash. And it’s becoming a regular sight among our banks, in and out of the water.

What is Littering?

The formal definition of littering is the illegal disposal of waste materials in public or private spaces. Litter is trash that has been thrown away and left to be picked up by others. Littering is a form of pollution and can have substantial negative consequences for the natural environment. It can result in the contamination of land, waterways, groundwater, and other shared natural resources.

 Littering is illegal in every state, including Alabama. Here in Alabama, anyone who is found knowingly depositing litter on any property or water without permission to do so is breaking the law and will face a minimum of $250 fine for first offense, and a $500 fine for each offense afterwards.

Why shouldn’t you do it?

Think your trash doesn’t harm anyone? Think again.

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is home to more than just the beautiful falls. The preserve is home to seven protected species including three endangered species of fish: The Rush Darter, the Watercress Darter, and the Vermilion Darter. In addition to being endangered, the Vermilion Darter is also endemic to Turkey Creek, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. Turkey Creek is also home to a threatened species of flower, the Eared Coneflower, a critically endangered species of bat: Grey Bat, and an endangered species of turtle: The Flattened Musk Turtle. Turkey Creek may be your favorite place to swim, but to the wildlife and plants here, it’s home! Trash can contaminate water and land and kill or injury wildlife and plants.

Like to swim in clean water?

In addition to the wonderful biodiversity here, our water is clean and clear and safe to swim in because it is naturally sourced from groundwater. Litter can contaminate groundwater, decreasing the water quality of your favorite swimming hole.

What you can do to help:

  1. Just throw it away: Don’t throw trash on the ground or in the water! Ever! Toss it in your nearest trash can or hold on to it until you can find one.
  2. Clean it up: See trash? Pick it up! You wouldn’t leave trash lying around in your yard or swimming pool at home, would you?
  3. Be a Steward of the Land: Treat the preserve the way you would your own land. As visitors, we all have a responsibility to respect the preserve and leave it as clean or cleaner than we found it.

Abbi Hallman

I am a 21 year old college student from Jasper, Alabama. Currently, I am a senior studying Urban Environmental Studies and psychology at Birmingham-Southern College. After college, I plan on attending law school and becoming an environmental attorney.

 

 

Sources Consulted:

Bullard, E. 2019. Littering. Salem Press Encyclopedia.

TCNP Management. 2013. “Conservation.” Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.

Alabama Forever Wild. 2018. “Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.” Alabama Forever Wild.

JeffCO H20:Waste Not

food-waste-thanksgiving When you think of Thanksgiving, you probably imagine a huge, delicious meal enjoyed with friends and family.  Many holidays and celebrations seem to revolve around food.  After all, food is one of the basic necessities for human life.  But in spite of its importance to our very survival, Americans throw away about 133 BILLION pounds of food – worth $162 billion – each year.  For the average American family, that adds up to discarding about 20 pounds of food per person per month, which means we also are throwing away about $2,200 per household each year.  Whether you overbought at the grocery store, food wasn’t properly stored, or you have some picky eaters, unwanted food usually winds up in the trash where it is transported to a landfill.  Food waste is the largest component of landfills, which in turn are the largest generators of methane, a greenhouse gas. food_scraps_pile On top of that, the land, water, energy, and other requirements of growing and transporting food to the consumer where about 1/3 of it winds up in the trash is a huge waste of resources.  These steps involved in getting food to your table, which include fertilizer and pesticide use, irrigation, emissions from vehicles, and power generation, can degrade water quality.  So what can be done to reduce the amount of food we throw away and the natural resources we waste or harm by doing so?  A good starting point is to plan what food you want to serve for the week, buy only what you know that you will use, and properly store the food until it is consumed.  Search for recipes that can incorporate often wasted items such as slightly wilted vegetables (try adding to soup) or overripe fruit (whip up a smoothie) to make meals your family will enjoy while using up all the food you purchased.  When serving a meal, only put what you know will be eaten on the plate.  You can always come back for seconds!  Carefully and properly store leftovers.  For food which has no further use (some fruit and vegetable cores and peels, coffee grounds, egg shells), starting a compost pile which will yield a rich organic soil amendment for your garden is a great option.  Wasting good, edible food is especially disturbing since 1 in 6 Americans live in households where access to food is not always secure.  Some places of worship, food banks and shelters can accept unopened, unexpired food – ALWAYS check with the agency first before you drop off any food.food_waste

 

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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: 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.

JeffCO H2O: ‘Contain’ Your Enthusiasm

vegetables-red-containersWell, actually enthusiasm is pretty hard to contain when you see how easy it is to start a container garden.  This stormwater friendly option is a good choice for nearly every type of outdoor space, large or small, suburban or urban.  You can use container gardening to make a statement for your entryway, enhance your patio, create a focal point by adding color and drama, or feed your family.  Yep, you read that right.  With just a few containers, you can grow a surprising array and amount of vegetables, from lettuce and tomatoes to carrots and potatoes.  Whether you are a beginner or have always had a green thumb, following a few easy guidelines will help maximize your container gardening success:

1. Decide what you want to grow, and do a little research to determine if the amount of sun your chosen space receives will be right for your ‘crop’ choices.

2. Select the right sized container for your plant choices.  Some plants like squash and vining tomatoes need a deep container because their root zones require as much as 30” of growing medium while others like leaf lettuce and scallions can thrive with just 4”.

3. Use a commercial soilless mix specifically designed for container gardening.  These mixes are lighter in weight, drain better than regular garden soil, and often contain materials that help retain moisture.

4. If the growing medium you have chosen does not contain a fertilizer, add a slow release organic fertilizer according to package directions.

5. Make sure that you keep your container garden well-watered, according to the needs of the plants you are growing.  Some container grown plants can require watering two or three times each week.  There are many websites and publications available to provide you with more information about successful container gardening.  The Alabama Cooperative Extension System publication Container Gardening, available at aces.edu or 879.6964, is a great place to start!

 

What’s Happening?

Brown Bag Lunch & Learn Seminar Series – Birmingham Botanical Gardens – This series of FREE seminars starting in May and running through October offers fresh, practical ideas and techniques for your landscape and garden.  No reservations are required; light refreshments provided.   Visit bbgardens.org or call 414.3950 to learn more.

Do Dah Day – May 14 – Rhodes and Caldwell Parks, Birmingham – Jefferson County Storm Water Management staff will be at this fun, family friendly event again this year promoting the proper disposal of pet waste with the ever popular Wholly Cr@p Dog Doo Game.  Visit dodahday.org for more information.

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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

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.

SBrasher1

(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

Site Map RTP 2014 with legend-01

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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JeffCo H2O: Single Use Society

Single use-1Emptying a coffee pod into the coffee maker, drinking bottled water, bringing purchases home in plastic bags, and choosing pre-packaged food items are all very convenient.  That’s why it’s so easy to fall into the trap of use it once and throw it away.  But according to Newton’s third law of motion, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The results of enjoying these conveniences without regard for the waste they generate are landfills packed to capacity, littered roads, and trashed waterways. Every waterway on earth eventually drains to an ocean, and both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans have enormous islands of trash.01garbage-patch2The primary component of these floating dumps is plastic, and most of it comes from land sources.  Dozens of cities have passed ordinances banning the use of plastic bags for retail sales and assessing a deposit for recyclable drink containers.  While these types of laws can reduce the use of specific items or encourage their recycling, they don’t begin to address the  enormity of waste generated as the result of single use items.  There are some obvious small steps we can take to reduce our personal consumption, such as choosing items with less packaging, ramping up our recycling efforts for those convenience items we just can’t do without, and opting for reusable items whenever possible.  But the potential for change doesn’t stop with these few examples.  Consciously identifying and adopting more responsible consumption habits can change our society from single use to sustainable.oneuse-300x225-1

 What’s Happening?

Brown Bag Seminar Series – Don’t miss the chance to enjoy the August Brown Bag Series seminars at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.  The seminars are free, no registration is required, and light refreshments are provided.  Call 325.8741 for more details.

August 6 – The Buzz on Pollinators – Sallie Lee

For a bountiful garden, learn how to welcome bee pollinators in colorful and exciting ways in your garden.  Auditorium 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

 August 13 – Porous, Permeable and Pervious – James Horton

When it comes to pathways and driveways, discover beautiful alternatives to concrete and asphalt.  Auditorium 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Jefferson County National Night Out – August 5 – This annual event encourages partnerships between neighborhoods and the Sheriff’s Office to enhance safety and crime prevention.  For a list of locations and times, visit the Sheriff’s Office website or call 325-1450.

 Valley Creek Cleanup – August 23 – Pitch in and help pick up litter and trash from Valley Creek from 8 am – 12 pm.  Free t-shirt and hot dog lunch.  For more information, visit http://www.jcdh.org/wpd

National Dog Day August 26 – ‘Paws’ for just a moment to celebrate our special bond with canines and commit to picking up and properly disposing of your pet’s waste.

August is National Water Quality Month – What are you doing to protect water quality in Jefferson County’s 50 creeks and streams?

 

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

diclementel@jccal.org

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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!

Tree Giveaway 1 Tree Giveaway 2 Tree Giveaway 3 Tree Giveaway 4 Tree Giveaway 5 Tree Giveaway 6DSC_1167

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.