Coinciding with the big event is Freshwater Land Trust Executive Director Libba Vaughan’s first anniversary at the helm of one of the Magic City’s most important land preservation organizations. This week, in preparation for Land Aid, Bham Now took the opportunity to ask Libba a few questions about Birmingham’s largest and most successful land trust.
Bham Now: The Freshwater Land Trust is responsible for saving so many special places. Can you give us a general overview of all that you (Freshwater Land Trust) do? What is your footprint? Why is your work important?
Vaughan: To put it simply, we conserve land for you! If you hike the trails at Red Mountain Park in Birmingham, slide down the falls at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson, watch the birds at Camp Coleman in Trussville, or admire the forested ridgeline of Double Oak Mountain in Shelby County, then you know the Freshwater Land Trust’s work. We permanently protected these places along with thousands of additional acres in Jefferson, Shelby, Tuscaloosa, Chilton, Bibb, St. Clair, Blount, and Walker Counties.
When the Freshwater Land Trust protects these places, we make a promise that the land will always be there for us and for our children and grandchildren. These places enhance our water quality, improve our physical and mental health, provide homes for animals and plants, and allow us to enjoy the outdoors with our friends and family. The many trails in our Red Rock Trail System enable us to walk and bike through our communities without a car.
We are excited to see more parks, green spaces, and trails play a part in the current rebirth of Greater Birmingham. These outdoor places make our communities more vibrant and livable – and make a real economic impact.
Bham Now: This is your first year anniversary. What are your proudest accomplishments over the past year?
Vaughan: I am most proud of hiring our great team: Jeffrey Drummond (land steward), Tina Simonton (operations director), Elizabeth Sims (conservation programs director), Carolyn Buck (Red Rock coordinator), and Mary Beth Brown (communications director). With guidance from our board of directors, these talented and fun people have permanently protected 120 new acres of land, moved 20 miles of trails into active development, and introduced over 300 new people to our permanently-protected places – and that’s just part of what we’ve accomplished in the last 12 months.
Bham Now: What are your goals for the coming year and for the future- more long term?
Vaughan: I am so excited about where we’re headed. This year, donors and other stakeholders helped us create an ambitious strategic plan that launches in January 2018. We aim to increase public access to our lands and trails, implement new conservation projects in all 8 counties, focus our restoration projects on better impacting water quality, and add miles and miles to the Red Rock Trail System. We can’t do this alone. We need your help in building a greener and more connected Central Alabama!
Red Mountain Park, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, Rotary Trail and countless more – The Freshwater Land Trust saved and protected these special places. Celebrate and support the Land Trust at Land Aid 2017 this Friday at Avondale Brewing Company.