By Sarah Kuper
The city of Mountain Brook prides itself on its Tree City USA designation, but this April, community leaders are celebrating and showcasing another one of the area’s natural wonders – Shades Creek.
The inaugural Shades Creek Fest is April 7 at Jemison Park. City officials and local nature enthusiasts from Mountain Brook and Homewood are inviting the public to enjoy live music, fly fishing demonstrations, nature exhibits and conservation education.
There will be interactive activities for families and special animal guests.
The Alabama Wildlife Center will bring local birds of prey and the Cahaba Environmental Council will show attendees some of the reptiles and amphibians native to area waterways.
Shades Creek runs along Mountain Brook Parkway, Shades Creek Parkway and Lakeshore Drive. Its waters are a feature of both the Jemison Park trail in Mountain Brook and the Shades Creek Greenway in Homewood.
The care and keeping of the creek is overseen by local officials and by citizen support in the form of the Mountain Brook group, Friends of Jemison Park, and the Homewood group, Friends of Shades Creek.
The two organizations work to keep their respective portion of the creek attractive and healthy. Now, for the first time, they are working together on a communitywide celebration.
Friends of Jemison Park was founded in the 1970s when several Mountain Brook citizens committed to keeping Shades Creek preserved as a natural area, according to Sim Johnson, president of Friends of Jemison Park and chairman of the Mountain Brook Board of Landscape Design. Not long after that, the group provided seed money for its Homewood counterpart, Friends of Shades Creek.
Johnson said the inaugural Shades Creek Fest is a manifestation of the relationship the Friends groups have had for a while.
“The two organizations have been friendly for years, but we’ve never done anything together like this,” he said, “It’s a rare opportunity for regional cooperation. We thought there might be more impediments, but the two mayors are very supportive.”
A new business in Homewood has been instrumental in orchestrating activities at Shades Creek Fest. Self-tagged as “elite outfitters of the sporting life,” Caliber sporting goods on Central Avenue has provided the fly fishing equipment, and staff will run demonstrations at the creek during the event.
Johnson describes the festival as a trial run and said he anticipates the event will grow and change over the years.
He said organizers hope the event highlights the way nature shapes the community and the importance of preservation.
“We really just want to educate the public and open their eyes to what is all around them,” Johnson said, “The woods aren’t some foreign, strange place. It’s nature.”
Mountain Brook will incorporate its annual Arbor Day celebration into Shades Creek Fest by giving away native oak tree saplings grown from the seeds of the tallest oak trees in Mountain Brook.
This initiative is part of the Centennial Tree program, which seeks to preserve grand oaks in the Over the Mountain area by nurturing young trees to replace mature trees as they die.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens Vice President of Education Henry Hughes began the project nearly a decade ago, and the tree giveaway at Shades Creek Fest is one more way to keep new oaks flourishing.
In years past, the city has given away saplings from native beech trees.
Johnson said the festival will be a fun opportunity for community members to celebrate the rich landscape around them. The festival begins at 10 a.m., admission is free and free parking will be available at National Bank of Commerce. Along with activities, there will be live music and treats from Steel City Pops.