“A dream come true”—community comes together for Big Canoe Creek Nature Preserve groundbreaking

thumbnail IMG 2997 "A dream come true"—community comes together for Big Canoe Creek Nature Preserve groundbreaking
A moment 12 years in the making. (Joannie Morrison)

After years and years of hard work and dedication, the Big Canoe Creek Preserve Partners, several Springville community members and others involved in the project participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Big Canoe Creek Nature Preserve in St. Clair County on Thursday, March 3rd. Keep reading for more on the heartwarming story.

It takes a village

IMG 3001 "A dream come true"—community comes together for Big Canoe Creek Nature Preserve groundbreaking
Coming together for Big Canoe Creek. (Joannie Morrison)

Back in 2009, Wendy Jackson, a proud St. Clair County native, helped The Friends of Big Canoe Creek pitch the initial preserve idea to former Springville Mayor William Isley. He saw the value in it for the community, and from there, the city and county worked with the Big Canoe Creek Preserve Partners to bring the project to life.

“I have done a lot of land conversation in my lifetime, not just here in Alabama, but across the country. This project is a poster child of how to get it done—it is absolutely amazing. It was the most collaborative, work together, stay the course project I’ve ever been involved with.”

Wendy Jackson, Former Executive Vice President, Land Trust Alliance

Over the years, there were plenty of obstacles thrown in the way, but there were also lots of heroes that made the project come together from every corner of the community.

One thing to note about everyone involved is their humble attitude and desire to give credit where it’s due.

Doug Morrison, a longtime conservationist and Board President for The Friends of Big Canoe Creek from 2008-2020, poured his heart into this project from the beginning.

From nominating the land to Forever Wild to cleaning up invasive privet from the groundbreaking scene, Doug has worked hard to see this project through, with nothing but appreciation for his counterparts.

“This preserve came about because of folks that were wanting to see some greenspace preserved. Big Canoe Creek is such a special watershed. It has the Big Canoe Creek clubshell mussel, not found anywhere else in the world and the Trispot darter, on the endangered species list. We’re just happy to be able to preserve a small piece, and hopefully that catches on.”

Doug Morrison, Chair, Big Canoe Creek Preserve Partners

Reaching common ground

Everyone involved, including the city, county, Freshwater Land Trust and others in the private sector patiently waited to see the project through.

In a demonstration of environmental leadership, the St. Clair County Commission invested heavily in the preserve. The county continues to follow through with what’s important to its citizens by investing in green spaces.

Patti McCurdy, State Lands Division Director, mentioned at the groundbreaking that only about 15% of nominations for the Forever Wild land trust, get through to acquisition.

McCurdy said that Big Canoe Creek Nature Preserve is a prime example of how local support can make all the difference in a Forever Wild project.

St. Clair County is full of farmers, timber owners, hunters, anglers, environmental leaders and more, all looking forward to protecting this piece of land.

“I am just over the moon for my home county. I don’t know how to put words to it. There were no egos involved in this, and you could see that at the groundbreaking yesterday. Everybody was acknowledging the roles of everyone else. It’s going to be a beautiful resource for education, recreation, conservation and even economic development.”

Wendy Jackson, Former Executive Vice President, Land Trust Alliance

The board of directors for Big Canoe Creek Preserve Partners also played a major role in seeing this project to completion:

  • Dean Goforth—Vice Chair
  • Nicholas Kin—Secretary
  • Chip Martin—Treasurer
  • Candice Hill—Retail/Marketing Specialist, St. Clair County Economic Development Council
  • Blair Goodgame—Tourism Coordinator, St. Clair County Economic Development Council
  • Cannon Lawley—Lawyer and Forester
  • Jimmy Stiles—Ph.D. Candidate, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University

What’s in store?

Sweetgum on the Preserve "A dream come true"—community comes together for Big Canoe Creek Nature Preserve groundbreaking
Doug Morrison and Alex Varner by a Sweetgum tree on the preserve. (Karl Peters)

Lots of exciting things are currently in the works for the preserve when it opens to the public.

“Our hope is that we can do some environmental education to let people know what they have in their own backyard. We’re really going to try to hone that in and teach people about what is special about the state, our ecosystems, our land, our water and how we can interact with it and nurture it.

Doug Morrison, Chair, Big Canoe Creek Preserve Partners

Macknally Land Design helped with the preserve’s master plan and surveyed the community to gain input on what they wanted to see. They’re going to continue to help develop new trails and map out the land. Additionally, Preston York with FlowMotion Trail Builders is working hard by flagging new trails on the property.

The preserve previously received a $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham for the entrance road, sign and gate.

New horseback riding and hiking trails are highlights of the upcoming preserve.

“It couldn’t have been done without The Friends of Big Canoe Creek initiating and nominating the property. The group worked with the City and County, Freshwater Land Trust and many, many folks in the community for years to see it through. It’s taken some time but here we are—up and running.”

Doug Morrison, Chair, Big Canoe Creek Preserve Partners

This conservation project has been a long time coming, but we’re looking forward to the amazing opportunities it brings to the St. Clair community and beyond.

“If anybody wants to see how to do a conservation project in their hometown, they can look to St Clair County in Springville, AL for a shining example.”

Wendy Jackson, Former Executive Vice President, Land Trust Alliance

For more information on Big Canoe Creek Nature Preserve, head to the Springville Parks and Rec website.

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Gabby Gervais
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