Anyone who meets staff members of the Freshwater Land Trust can see their passion for conservation and nature.
On a recent hike through the 65-acre Homewood Forest Preserve, Zac Napier, land steward for the nonprofit, pointed out different types of blueberry bushes, shared his affinity for salamanders and explained how to spot poison ivy, while Wendy Jackson, executive director, discussed the importance of the organization’s work.
“We own and manage the largest collection of privately-held nature preserves in central Alabama,” Jackson said. “We’re Mother Nature’s real estate agents. Through our partnership projects, we’ve been able to protect over 10,000 acres of land.”
The Freshwater Land Trust, formerly the Black Warrior Cahaba River Land Trust, was born out of Jefferson County’s struggles with its sewer system violations in the late 1990s. According to Jackson, the county owed $30 million in penalties to the federal treasury and worked out an agreement to keep the money in Alabama to be used towards greenway acquisition along rivers and streams.
Because Jefferson County did not have a park and recreation board, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Justice Department created an entity to implement the program, and the Freshwater Land Trust was created.
That program officially ended in 2007, but the Freshwater Land Trust continued to function as a local nonprofit and became the first accredited land trust in the state.
“We took that $30 million and turned it into $50 million worth of conservation work on the ground by leveraging those monies,” Jackson said. “We preserve the places that matter in the community. When we can, we believe in connecting people to the outdoors. People are only going to protect what they know and love, and in this day and age, there is such a disconnect.”
Today, the Freshwater Land Trust manages areas such as the Turkey Creek watershed, Locust Fork River watershed, Cane Creek watershed, Big and Little Canoe Creek watershed, the Cahaba River watershed, the Buxahatchee Creek watershed, the Shoal Creek watershed and Hurricane Creek watershed as well as urban greenways.
Now, the trust is gearing up for its seventh annual Land Aid at Avondale Brewing Co. July 31. The event raised almost $10,000 for the organization last year, and organizers are hoping to top that number this year.
“We call it a party for a cause,” said Memorie English, communications coordinator and development assistant. “We’ve worked with Avondale this year, and they’ve brewed two specialty beers.”
The junior board fundraiser will feature the band Kopecky. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. For more information, visit www.freshwaterlandtrust.org.