“Cathedral in the woods.” A special preview of Turkey Creek’s new teaching pavilion

Charles Yeager
Meet Charles Yeager, the Turkey Creek Preserve Manager. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is home to the rarest fish in the world and one of the most popular nature preserves in the state of Alabama. Now, they’re taking a giant leap forward to becoming self-sustaining thanks to a new teaching pavilion. We got a special preview last week—take a look.

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve’s new pavilion doubles their numbers

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve pavilion
This new pavilion will help increase Turkey Creek’s capacity. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve sees 130,000 visitors a year, but that means they need support to sustain their mission. They’re building a new teaching pavilion that will allow them to increase their capacity significantly—from 3-to-4,000 kids a year to 6-to-8,000 kids a year.

The new pavilion will make it possible for 150 to 180 kids to join classes, and it will even be a potential venue for weddings and events.

“I call this place the cathedral in the woods because the height of the ceiling is pretty magnificent.”

Roald Hazelhoff, Director of the Southern Environmental Center

Local partnerships made this possible

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The new pavilion. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

Just like Turkey Creek, the new teaching pavilion is a collaboration between organizations that want to see the environment thrive. This is a partnership between the Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham-Southern College, the city of Pinson, Freshwater Land Trust, the state Forever Wild Program, and Jefferson County.

But that’s not all. The pavilion itself is a part of Birmingham Southern, the preserve is state property, and the road coming in is a county road.

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Friends of Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

Turkey Creek provides a service to the community as an educational setting, but they need to raise funds to make everything possible.

“We’re not only providing a service to the community, but we’re also easing the burden of individual partners. For the Preserve, from the state, from the county, from the city. We fill their role by managing this facility.”

Charles Yeager, Turkey Creek Preserve Manager

Becoming more sustainable

Turkey Creek
A breathtaking view. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

So why this new pavilion? It’s all about adding sustainable sources of funding. The Preserve is home to one of the rarest fish on earth—the Vermilion darter. Plus, with over 130,000 visitors a year, they’re a popular destination.

Clearly, they’re important to our community and our environment. But that also means they need sustainable sources of funding to continue their impact.

“The big part of that is for us to be able to take care of the Preserve, we have to have sustainable sources. We have to be able to make the most out of the resources that we have and this space is going to be one of our most valuable assets in being able to keep those gates open and being able to support those 130,000 people that are coming out.”

Charles Yeager

What’s next for Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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A look at the new pavilion. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

If you want to have a part in supporting Turkey Creek, there are plenty of options. Whether you head to one of their events or support their fundraising campaigns, you can be a part of this important piece of Alabama.

Native plant sale
  • Spring 2021 Native Plant Sale: Enjoy the new education pavilion at its first public event on Saturday, May 8 from 10AM-4PM and Sunday, May 9 from 12-4PM.
  • 8th Annual Darter Festival: Head to Avondale Brewery on Sunday, May 23 from 12-5PM for live music, beer, food and socially-distanced fun to support Turkey Creek’s educational programs. Plus, you can try Avondale brewery’s seasonal Darter Ale. Purchase your advance tickets now.

“What makes us special is the fact that we have nine imperiled species that can be found in such a relatively small area. That makes us one of the most critical habitats, probably in the country, for species. It’s this last little refuge for these incredible creatures and this place still holds many secrets that we have not discovered yet.

There are so many things that make this the perfect place to teach children and to share nature with children.”

Charles Yeager

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