3 things you need to know about Ruffner Mountain’s newly renovated greenhouse

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Photo by Daniel DeVaughn

It is a simple idea. Renovate a greenhouse. The project started in the fall of 2017 and culminated this spring at Ruffner Mountain. Find out why the improved greenhouse is important for the preserve and for Birmingham.

Ruffner Mountain

Have you been to Ruffner Mountain? Ruffner Mountain is a 1,040 acre nature preserve located in the South East Lake neighborhood of Jefferson County. If you haven’t been, we highly encourage you to take the short drive for spectacular hiking and breathtaking views of Birmingham.

Vulcan Materials’ volunteers at Ruffner Mountain. Photo courtesy of Ruffner Mountain.
The greenhouse

Just a few years after its construction in 2013, the greenhouse sustained storm damage. It never reached its potential. In 2017, Vulcan Materials Company and other donors saw an opportunity to renovate and update the greenhouse so that it could fulfill Ruffner’s mission. That leads to (drumroll please) the three things you to need know about Ruffner’s new and improved greenhouse.

1. Generating Income

One of the biggest challenges facing a nature preserve such as Ruffner Mountain is to remain free of charge to the public. Keeping Ruffner Mountain free and open to the public is an organizational and community priority. The greenhouse will generate several income streams including funds from consumers (at the Annual Spring Native Plant Sale) and businesses interested in purchasing local native plants. Plants and trees are also grown in the greenhouse to be used in future restoration projects. Recently, the Nature Conservancy, Alabama Chapter, purchased some trees from Ruffner Mountain to plant in and around East Lake Park and neighborhood. This brings in badly needed revenue in lieu of entrance fees.

Photo by Bob Farley
2. Supporting Biodiversity

Locally grown native plants support Birmingham ecosystems and biodiversity, according to Ruffner Mountain’s Executive Director, Carlee Sanford.

“The greenhouse is looking spiffy, but the real reason it’s so important is because it will allow our staff and volunteers to grow native plants for the homes and gardens of the public, and for the mountain itself. And why are native plants so important? One word: biodiversity. Biodiversity is what makes any healthy ecosystem or biome possible, and it’s what allows all of our native flora and fauna to thrive.”

3. Building Community

Established in 1977, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve was created by local residents. It was a genuine grassroots movement. One of Ruffner’s first corporate sponsors in the 1980s was the Vulcan Materials Company. In fact, a Vulcan employee, Elliot Bell, was a neighbor of Ruffner Mountain and joined Ruffner’s Board of Directors in 2002. Elliot worked with Vulcan Materials’ community relations department and began volunteer efforts at Ruffner soon afterwards. This year’s incoming Board President, Dan Smart, works at Vulcan Materials.

Building the Ruffner Mountain Greenhouse. Photo courtesy of Ruffner Mountain.

In addition to providing financial support for the greenhouse, Vulcan Materials provided volunteers to help renovate the greenhouse.

More importantly, their efforts build community and produce tangible results.

“Typically, Vulcan Materials has about 15-20 volunteers give their time quarterly, onsite at Ruffner Mountain,” said Smart. “Part of what we have done is eliminate invasives in the quarry and by the lakes.”

Smart added, “People enjoy working at Ruffner. There has been an awakening that planting native plants is an important thing to do. It is better for everyone. That is why the greenhouse is important for all of us.”

Come see the Ruffner Mountain Greenhouse
Ruffner
Photo by Daniel DeVaughn

Ruffner Mountain is a natural treasure in our community. The newly renovated greenhouse provides the nature preserve with some much needed income, promotes ways to grow local native plants for biodiversity, and helps build community.

It’s a place to make a difference.

Join, volunteer or explore Ruffner Mountain today.

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Author: 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.