For the first time in three decades, the organization that has led the charge to defend one of the most biodiverse rivers in North America and the source of half of Birmingham Metro’s drinking water, is gathering supporters old and new together to reflect on the Cahaba River Society’s past and ignite a new path for its future.
As part of the reunion, supporters are being asked to send in or bring to the reunion, photos and videos of their fondest memories of the river and the organization.
To help CRS with this task, I am submitting my fondest stories right here.
Why we needed a Cahaba River Society
In September of 1989, I started my new job as the Executive Director of the Alabama Conservancy. My neighbor at that 2717 7th Avenue location was a new organization called the Cahaba River Society. Despite being twenty years older, The Alabama Conservancy, which a few years later was renamed the Alabama Environmental Council, was like a big brother to the fledgling CRS, but it never truly felt like it.
We were both too busy in those days, especially CRS.
At the time, CRS was fighting for the very survival of the river. For example, CRS opposed oil and gas projects that were being allowed to dump their drilling muds and chemicals back into river.
They were also confronting explosive population growth and development that were occurring within the Cahaba River watershed. In the late 80s the state’s water quality standards for the Cahaba River were woefully weak. It was the job of the Cahaba River Society to upgrade the water quality standards and make them more stringent to protect our drinking water.
Proposing stronger regulations have never been an easy task in Alabama. In fact, it is near impossible.
Cahaba Lily became a symbol for the river
But that all changed when Guy Arello and Beth Maynor Finch, two of the founding members of the Cahaba River Society captured the hearts and minds of all Alabamians and gave us all a reason to care for the Cahaba River.
They made the Cahaba Lily the symbol of the river.
Through Guy’s beautiful graphics and Beth’s stunning photography, our community rallied around that lily. It was so significant, years later, when the Cahaba River Society car tag was created, it was the lily prominently displayed and the words Save the Cahaba replaced Alabama’s tagline “Heart of Dixie” on the tag.
Stronger rules and a National Wildlife Refuge
With the Cahaba Lily as a symbol, the Cahaba River Society stopped the companies from dumping their muds into the Cahaba and it’s tributaries. They moved ADEM to create a new more protective and stringent water quality standard called the “Outstanding Alabama Waters” or OAW.
And those Cahaba Lilies inspired Birmingham area Congressman Spencer Bachus to propose and pass through the U.S. Congress legislation establishing the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, most likely the only National Wildlife Refuge in the U.S. created to save a lily.
For me, after 30 years, my fondest memory is taking my daughter Whitney, each May or June to see the Cahaba lilies. Nothing compares to spending a day with a loved one, getting wet, stepping ever so carefully along the shoals and then kneeling and sitting among the lilies. Thanks to the Cahaba River Society, it is all possible.
Be a part of the Cahaba Family Reunion: 30th Anniversary Annual Meeting
So mark your calendar – Cahaba Family Reunion: 30th Anniversary Annual Meeting – Thursday, January 31, 5:30 to 8:00 at Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
CRS is asking supporters to share their memories. You can do it 3 ways:
1. Send CRS a Cahaba anniversary video. Here is Cahaba River Society’s longtime Executive Director Beth Stewart’s video as an example:
2. Send them your Cahaba photos. Contribute to the Cahaba Family Photo Album! Please share your favorite photos, both new and old, of you, your family and your friends on the Cahaba. Take a moment to scroll through the camera roll on your phone or dig through your hold scrap books and send CRS your #ThrowBackThursday Cahaba photos!
Please email all photo and video contributions to Katie Shaddix at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, the third item….
Join Cahaba River Society at the meeting! Take part in a group “family” photo and celebrate three decades of progress and accomplishments.