TCNP Blog and News

JeffCO H20: Risky Business

not-down-the-stormdrainThey are called storm drains, inlets, culverts, and gutters.  These openings, pipes, and ditches along roadways are built for the purpose of quickly removing rainwater from paved areas to prevent flooding.  Unlike the sanitary sewer system which carries wastewater from homes and businesses to a wastewater treatment plant, storm drains carry rainwater and anything else on the ground directly to the nearest creek or stream.  This water does not get treated.  The thing is, storm drains are very conveniently located, and therein lies the problem.  When working outside, it’s normal to want to be done as quickly as possible, and that includes cleaning up after completing a project.  But it is not okay to use a storm drain for the disposal of grass clippings, car wash water, vehicle fluids, or any other material associated with your project due to its potential to pollute waterways. Take the extra step to properly dispose of waste or leftover materials.  Grass clippings and other yard debris can be used to start a compost pile which will create some wonderfully rich nutrients to add to your garden.  Cars should be washed on a grassy or other pervious area so that wash water can soak into the ground rather than run off into the street, or taken to a commercial car wash which captures and recycles wash water. Used vehicle fluids are accepted at most locations that service cars.  The bottom line is that stormwater pollution affects everyone, and it takes everyone working together to keep Jefferson County waterways clean!

What’s Happening?

Brown Bag Lunch and Learn Seminar Series – Birmingham Botanical Gardens, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm – This free seminar series continues through October.  No reservations required; light refreshments provided.  For more information, visit www.bbgardens.org.

September 14 – All about Bulbs

Easy care, low maintenance, and they bring added color and texture all year long!

September 28 – Transplanting and Care

Discover the tried and true techniques of planting, propagating or moving established     plants in your yard.

October 12 – Ask the Experts

Bring your garden related questions and ask the panel.  Trees, turf, vegetables, soil, pests and disease – our experts have the answers!

October 26 – They’re So Wicked

Discover what plants are harmful or toxic, how to control them and the folklore   associated with them!

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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

 

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JeffCO H2O: Going Batty

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Besides being high on many people’s list of creepy animals, most of us really don’t know too much about bats.  These primarily nocturnal creatures usually live in trees, buildings, caves, and other sheltered places.  While most of us sleep, bats perform some vital functions that directly benefit humans.  Several varieties of bats feed on nectar, and serve as important pollinators for plants like bananas, mangoes and cocoa. (Think about that next time you have a piece of chocolate!)  The majority of bats feed on insects and have such voracious appetites that just one small bat can eat more than 1000 mosquitoes in one night.  Mosquitoes are not just pesky; they also can carry dangerous viruses.  So it makes sense that attracting bats to come and live in your yard can provide a chemical free, low cost way to help make a dent in the number of mosquitoes that can plague you and your family.  Purchasing or building a few bat houses and installing them on poles or on the side of your house that gets the most sun will provide an invitation for bats to come live and work in your yard.  Since they are nocturnal, chances are good that you will never even see them!  Another proactive measure to cut down on the mosquito population is to take steps to prevent mosquitoes from breeding on your property in the first place.  Walk around your yard and remove any items which can hold standing water, such as buckets or empty containers.  If there are elements in your landscape like low areas that can hold water but you cannot do anything to change them, consider using mosquito dunks on a monthly basis in these areas to kill mosquito larvae.  While these efforts will not completely eliminate mosquitoes from your yard, they will help reduce the opportunities for mosquitoes to breed and feed.

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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: Insect Magnet

mosquito magnet

No, it’s not your imagination!  Some people really are insect magnets.  According to researchers, there are several factors that may contribute to the attraction.  One factor is blood type.  People with type O blood attract gnats, mosquitos, and other annoying insects far more than people with other blood types.  So if you are one of these unlucky folks, what to do?  One of the most effective approaches is applying an insect repellant to your skin and/or clothing.  There are many readily available options at most stores where personal care products are sold.  Incorporating some plants into your landscape that are natural insect repellants such as lemon balm, rosemary, and lavender also can help reduce the pest population around your home.  While plants alone can’t make your yard pest free, they can help fend off some of the aggravators.  Plus, many of these plants add wonderful aroma and color to your yard.   Another important strategy is tackling the potential for standing water around your home.  Take a quick walk around your yard and remove any containers or other items that could hold rainwater.  For features in your yard that you cannot or don’t want to change, such as a pond or bird bath, adding mosquito dunks on a monthly basis will kill mosquito larvae.  You can pick up a free mosquito dunk kit at the Birmingham Courthouse Room B-210, Bessemer Justice Center, or Center Point and Hoover satellites.

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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

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

JeffCO H2O: A Dirty Little Secret

Spring is here, and with it comes the start of the growing season.  Maybe you have plans to reconfigure your landscape, install some new plants, or build a patio or deck in your yard.  Since most improvements or changes to the landscape involve some type of land disturbance, it’s important to factor in how to prevent soil from being exposed to the elements while your project is being implemented. Soil pileSoil and the things that live in it and because of it make up a complex web of interdependency.  Without soil, most living things would cease to exist.  Wind and rain can leach away valuable nutrients that nourish plants from bare soil.   Rain also can erode soil,  creating sediment in creeks and streams which kills aquatic wildlife and fills in streambeds, causing flooding.  Soil particles attract and bond with yard chemicals, so these chemicals tag along with eroded soil and can end up in local waterways where they harm water quality, aquatic plants, and animals.  If you have dug up the soil for a small project but can’t complete it right away, you can cover the exposed soil with a tarp and secure the edges, or install a layer of mulch to help hold soil in place until the project can be completed.  If you are going to implement a project that involves digging up, filling in, or grading large amounts of soil, you may be required to obtain a land disturbance activity permit and implement some additional BMPs.  To find out if the project you are planning to implement within unincorporated Jefferson County requires a permit, call 325-8741.  If you live in an incorporated area, contact your municipality to learn about permitting requirements.

What’s Happening?

Brown Bag Lunch & Learn Seminar Series – Birmingham Botanical Gardens – This free series of seminars starting in May and running through October offers fresh and practical ideas and techniques for your landscape and garden.  No reservations are required; light refreshments provided.

 Do Dah Day – May 14 – Rhodes and Caldwell Parks, Birmingham – Go to dodahday.org for information about this fun, family friendly event.

Rain Barrel Workshop – June 18 –  Learn how to build a rain barrel or purchase one to take home, and start enjoying the benefits that storing and using rainwater can bring.  Preregistration required by June 8.  Click HERE for more information.

Step Away from the Spray! – Stop by Storm Water Management (B-210 Courthouse Annex) to pick up a free mosquito dunk kit which targets mosquito larvae growing in standing water, or invite us to speak at your next community or organization meeting in unincorporated Jefferson County.  These biologic dunks target and kill mosquito larvae in standing water, they can’t accidentally kill pollinators like bees or butterflies, and they do not harm people, pets or wildlife.

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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

JeffCoH2O: You’ve Got WHAT Under the Sink???

old paint

Or maybe it’s that stuff collecting dust in the corner of the garage.  You know what we’re talking about: rusting cans of paint (did you really paint the walls that color?), fertilizer that’s so old it has hardened into a brick, drain cleaner that they don’t even make anymore, unlabeled jars of something you can’t remember saving.  Just know that you are not alone!  The average American household stores a whopping 100 pounds of household hazardous waste within the home.  The problem is that when it’s time to do some spring cleaning, many of these products should not be thrown away in the regular household trash, or may need to be handled in a specific way first.  Bringing those items that will be accepted to a Household Hazardous Waste Day event is a great option for proper disposal.  But the best long term solution is to carefully plan out what you need to accomplish a task or complete a project, buy the least toxic product available, and only purchase what is needed to get the jobUnder the sink done.  If you buy a product in a large quantity, be sure that you will be able to use it all over a set period of time.  It’s also important to pay attention to how the container should be discarded when it is empty.  In some cases, empty containers that contained chemicals such as pesticides should carefully be rinsed and the resulting diluted product properly used before the container is recycled or discarded according to package directions.

What’s Happening?

AL People Against a Littered State (PALS) Spring Cleanup – Want to make a difference in your community?  Consider organizing or participating in a volunteer roadside litter cleanup.  Last year, 1009 volunteers participated in 35 cleanups, removing 65 tons of litter and trash from roadways in unincorporated Jefferson County.  Several of these volunteers received statewide awards for their efforts.  Cleanup resources such as flyers, gloves, bags, safety t-shirts, traffic control and trash disposal are available for FREE to unincorporated Jefferson County Communities.  Call 325-8741 to learn how your community can participate.

Household Hazardous Waste Day – March 19 – McClendon Park, Legion Field – 9 am – 12 noon (or until capacity is met) – It’s estimated that Americans generate an astonishing 530,000 tons of household hazardous waste every year.  Now’s the time to root through your garage, peek under the kitchen sink, and gather up items for proper disposal at Household Hazardous Waste Day.  FREE and open to all Jefferson County residents.  Find out what items will be accepted by visiting facebook.com/JeffersonCountyAL or by calling 325-8741.

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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