Ruffner Mountain turns 40 – special words from their first and current executive directors

Read Time 3 Minutes

Bob Farley/ — Ruffner, wetlands, Highland School

Next month on October 21st, Ruffner Mountain will be holding a celebration commemorating their 40th year.

On this special occasion, Bham Now took the opportunity to ask Ruffner’s first executive director Kathy Stiles Freeland and their current ED Carlee Sanford what makes this place so special.

Kathy Stiles Freeland, founder and first Executive Director (1979-1989 and 2004-2009)
Ruffner Mountain
Left to right – Ruffner’s current Executive Director Carlee Sanford with founders Kathy Stiles Freeland and Maggie Clancy
Most rewarding experience of my life

“Over 40 years ago, I became part of a coalition of different interest groups with one big shared dream — preserving over 1000 acres of green space called Ruffner Mountain.

We envisioned a place where Birmingham residents could find peace and quiet, children could learn about nature IN nature, and native wildlife (plants and animals) could thrive.”

Ruffner Mountain
Photo courtesy of Ruffner Mountain

Fortunately, this dream captured the imagination and interest of the entire Birmingham community. Dogged determination and commitment over many years made that dream come true. Being a part of that effort was the most rewarding experience of my life.”

Ruffner Mountain
Kathy Stiles Freeland in the early years – photo courtesy of Ruffner Mountain
“There will always be a need for a quiet place to get away and reflect without phones and computers.”

“Any human or organization that is 40 years old will have had its high and low points and Ruffner has had those. Other green spaces have evolved (following Ruffner’s example) and life has changed in many ways with a lot of competition for people’s attention.

However, there will always be a need for a quiet place to get away and reflect without phones and computers. There will always be a need to provide children opportunity to be outdoors and to discover nature, and definitely, there will always be a need for natural areas for native plants and animals.

Ruffner is here to stay and to serve future generations. It has excellent leadership today and its membership base is growing. I hope the entire community will become a part of this amazing place by becoming a member.”

Ruffler Mountain
“It is a wonderful coincidence that Ruffner’s 40th birthday celebration is October 21 — my great-granddaughter’s first birthday.”

“My son was 11 years old when Ruffner was founded. Today he is a grandfather and I am a great-grandmother. It is a wonderful coincidence that Ruffner’s 40th birthday celebration is October 21 — my great-granddaughter’s first birthday. She has already been taken on many outings to Ruffner and pretty soon she will walk on her own two feet to the limestone quarry like her mother, grandfather and great-grandmother have done many times before.”

Carlee Sanford – Ruffner’s Current Executive Director
Birmingham Alabama
Carlee Sanford at the NIght Festival at Ruffner Mountain this Summer – photo courtesy of Ruffner Mountain

“Thanks to Ruffner my Heath Aster Symphyotrichum ericoides bloomed two weeks ago; my favorite plant is now Rattle Snake Master Eryngium yuccifolicum (two things I didn’t know 20 months ago); and sometimes my job includes researching bees and beaver dams.

With all the negative ongoing stress, the natural world is a beautiful discovery, I’m thankful to be a part of something that will impact the next 40 years.”

Ruffner Mountain – Birmingham’s original conservation movement

“Ruffner was part of the original conservation movement in Birmingham— so many wonderful places in our City preserved over the last 40 years. We invite our neighbors, visitors, founders, and friends to join us on the Mountain to celebrate why we are here; as a resource for the community, and to promote the interconnectedness of all living things.”

Birmingham Alabama
Ruffner kids in the 80s – photo courtesy of Ruffner Mountain
Ruffner Turns 40!  Celebrate by Becoming a Member

Carlee and Kathy are two examples of what make Ruffner Mountain special. Passionate people. Love of nature, community and place.

A Birmingham treasure, join Ruffner on October 21st in celebration of their 40th Anniversary.  More importantly, begin a lifelong commitment to this special “magical” place by becoming a member of the Ruffner Mountain today.


Default image
Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
Articles: 1779