REACH Birmingham


Poor nutri­tion, phys­i­cal inac­tiv­ity, poverty—these are all fac­tors con­tribut­ing to dan­ger­ous chronic dis­eases and the largest health dis­par­i­ties in under­served Birm­ing­ham communities.

The Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust is work­ing to com­bat these health dis­par­i­ties by join­ing forces with sev­eral local orga­ni­za­tions as part of “Birm­ing­ham REACH for bet­ter health.”


What is REACH?

Birm­ing­ham REACH for bet­ter health” is a local coali­tion of aca­d­e­mic, county, and non­profit orga­ni­za­tions work­ing to offer bet­ter food choices and fit­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties for our neigh­bors. This project is a part­ner­ship led by UAB Minor­ity Heath & Health Dis­par­i­ties Research Cen­ter work­ing with the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust, Jef­fer­son County Depart­ment of Health, REV Birmingham’s Urban Food Project, United Way of Cen­tral Alabama, and the YMCA.

REACH part­ners are col­lab­o­rat­ing with each other to help our neigh­bors make health­ier food choices, increase their phys­i­cal activ­ity, and improve their over­all health by expand­ing on cur­rent orga­ni­za­tional pro­grams and imple­ment­ing new pro­grams for the tar­get com­mu­ni­ties to uti­lize. For exam­ple, by work­ing with REV Birmingham’s Urban Food Project, we pro­mote the avail­abil­ity of farm fresh pro­duce at local cor­ner stores. We also help the com­mu­ni­ties move more, with free exer­cise classes at local YMCA branches, and encour­age them to explore the city’s open spaces on the Red Rock Trails to improve their health and well-being.

How is this pro­gram possible?

The Uni­ver­sity of Alabama at Birm­ing­ham (UAB) Minor­ity Health and Health Dis­par­i­ties Research Cen­ter (MHRC) won a com­pet­i­tive grant of nearly $3 mil­lion from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) to fund the REACH project. The award is part of a U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices (HHS) ini­tia­tive to sup­port pub­lic health efforts to reduce chronic dis­eases, pro­mote health­ier lifestyles, reduce health dis­par­i­ties, and con­trol health-care spending.

This is a 3-year project reach­ing more than 116,000 peo­ple in hopes of reduc­ing the gap in chronic dis­eases between African Amer­i­cans and Whites in Birm­ing­ham by improv­ing nutri­tion and phys­i­cal activ­ity in under­served African Amer­i­can communities.

What is FWLT’s role?

Through the REACH pro­gram, the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust’s goal is to con­nect peo­ple toexercise the places they want to go and increase access to places to exer­cise through the Red Rock Ridge & Val­ley Trail Sys­tem. With this fund­ing, FWLT is explor­ing the health ben­e­fits of green space by join­ing with the REACH part­ners to develop a local Parks Pre­scrip­tion pro­gram. The effort is mod­eled after suc­cess­ful ini­tia­tives from around the coun­try that involve health care providers con­nect­ing patients with con­ve­nient out­door recre­ational spaces in their neigh­bor­hood. Research has shown that access to places for phys­i­cal activ­ity, com­bined with infor­ma­tional out­reach, pro­duces a nearly 50% increase in the fre­quency of phys­i­cal activ­ity. With over 100 parks within the City of Birm­ing­ham and new trails con­tin­u­ally being built, the Parks Pre­scrip­tion pro­gram will cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties for med­ical pro­fes­sion­als to intro­duce patients to healthy recre­ational spaces in their community.

To learn more about this trans­for­ma­tive com­mu­nity project visit

Conserving the Cahaba

James & Olivia Howard donate Cahaba River prop­erty to Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust


James and Olivia Howard

James and Olivia Howard

Pre­serv­ing a Way of Life

At the Fresh­wa­ter Land trust, we believe con­ser­va­tion work is more than pre­serv­ing the nat­ural environment—we believe it’s about pre­serv­ing a way of life. Our pri­or­ity is to honor the rela­tion­ship between a fam­ily and its land, so that their way of life and the nat­ural her­itage they enjoy is pre­served forever.

James and Olivia Howard believe in the deeper mean­ing of con­ser­va­tion, too. When they first approached the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust about pre­serv­ing their land on the Cahaba River in 2003, they not only wanted to pro­tect the river’s bio­di­ver­sity, but also pro­tect their legacy.

Now, more than a decade later, James and Olivia have per­ma­nently pre­served their land and their legacy by donat­ing 167 acres on the Cahaba River to the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust.

A Cahaba River Treasure

The Howard’s prop­erty is located in Bibb County and is a Pri­or­ity One area of con­ser­va­tion based on the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust’s 10-year strate­gic con­ser­va­tion plan. This prop­erty is sur­rounded by the Cahaba River Wildlife Man­age­ment Area, 41,500 acres of land along the Cahaba in Bibb and Shelby Coun­ties used for out­door recre­ation. In addi­tion, this site is down­stream from the Liv­ing River Retreat, a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion located on the Cahaba that is asso­ci­ated with the Pre­bytery of Shep­pards and Lap­s­ley, an orga­ni­za­tion of 80+ Pres­by­ter­ian Churches located through­out cen­tral Alabama. With this cen­tral loca­tion, the Howard’s dona­tion adds to a larger con­ser­va­tion area along the Cahaba River.

Now with this gen­er­ous land gift, the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust owns and man­ages 580 acres, encom­pass­ing over 10 miles, on the Cahaba River. This par­tic­u­lar site pro­tects more than one mile of river frontage and serves as a sig­nif­i­cant forested buffer for the Cahaba.

Con­ser­va­tion Toolbox

Landown­ers and their fam­i­lies know what is best for their prop­erty, and the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust can serve as a part­ner in help­ing landown­ers under­stand the best con­ser­va­tion option suited for their land and their fam­ily. We offer sev­eral con­ser­va­tion options to pri­vate landown­ers, some with sig­nif­i­cant tax advan­tages, includ­ing con­ser­va­tion ease­ments, dona­tions by will, bar­gain sales, and fee sim­ple dona­tions, among oth­ers. The Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust can pro­vide guid­ance in the crit­i­cal decision-making process of con­serv­ing fam­ily lands for future generations.

In the early 2000s, James and Olivia con­tem­plated leav­ing this land to the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust in their will. How­ever, after learn­ing more about the other con­ser­va­tion options avail­able to them, they decided to give an out­right fee sim­ple dona­tion of their property.

In a fee sim­ple dona­tion, all rights and inter­ests of the prop­erty are gifted to the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust. Prior to the dona­tion, FWLT worked closely with the Howards to deter­mine a sus­tain­able plan for the prop­erty. Mov­ing for­ward, the Howards will still be able to visit and enjoy their land as they have been, but the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust will own and man­age the prop­erty, guar­an­tee­ing that it is pre­served in per­pe­tu­ity through a con­tin­ual stew­ard­ship pro­gram. In addi­tion, the land trust adds a pro­tec­tive covenant on the prop­erty to ensure it stays in con­ser­va­tion forever.

Leav­ing a Legacy

When asked why they wanted to con­serve their prop­erty, the Howards said that this land rep­re­sents their legacy because of their love of the Cahaba and its impor­tant bio­di­ver­sity for all. Con­serv­ing this land in its nat­ural state brings many ben­e­fits to the Howards, but per­haps the most grat­i­fy­ing is know­ing that future gen­er­a­tions will cher­ish the land they pro­tected. The Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust is proud to have played a role in pre­serv­ing this spe­cial place for the Cahaba, its wildlife, and most impor­tantly for James and Olivia’s legacy.

Rotary Honored

Rotary Club of Birm­ing­ham Hon­ored as Water Con­ser­va­tion­ist of the Year by AWF

The cel­e­bra­tion of the Governor’s Con­ser­va­tion Achieve­ment Awards continues!

While the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust brought home the AWF Con­ser­va­tion Orga­ni­za­tion of the Year Award, the Rotary Club of Birm­ing­ham was also hon­ored as Water Con­ser­va­tion­ist of the Year Award for their out­stand­ing efforts with the Rotary Trail and the numer­ous water qual­ity ben­e­fits asso­ci­ated with this trans­for­ma­tional project.

To cel­e­brate its 100th anniver­sary, the Rotary Club of Birm­ing­ham part­nered with the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust to build Rotary Trail – a 4 block lin­ear park in the old his­tor­i­cal rail­road cut between north and south Birm­ing­ham in the mid­dle of the city, con­nect­ing Rail­road Park to Sloss Fur­naces and expand­ing the Red Rock Ridge and Val­ley Trail Sys­tem. The Rotary Club wanted a project that would ben­e­fit our community’s health, improve the nat­ural envi­ron­ment, encour­age devel­op­ment and pro­vide edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties to area chil­dren. The Rotary Trail addresses each of these goals and will be a last­ing gift to the City of Birm­ing­ham forever.

Birm­ing­ham Rotary mem­bers raised over $3.5 mil­lion for the project and have now part­nered with the City of Birm­ing­ham for its con­struc­tion and future main­te­nance. This public/private part­ner­ship will not only sup­port out­door fam­ily recre­ation, but also improve our community’s water qual­ity through an appro­pri­ate storm water drainage system.

The his­toric “cut” is an aban­doned rail line that is 16 ft below street level plagued by crumb­ing con­crete and graf­fiti. Although mostly hid­den from view, this site was a for­got­ten part of Birm­ing­ham, rel­a­tively unknown to most observers. The cen­tury old “cut” only served as a water waste land, drain­ing non­point source pol­lu­tion from the streets of Birm­ing­ham directly into Val­ley Creek.

The trail’s new design raises the grade of the cut to approx­i­mately 6 feet. The new trail, along with the green veg­e­ta­tion located along its cor­ri­dor, will now allow for the fil­tra­tion of sed­i­ment, oil, pol­lu­tion and other storm water runoff before it flows into Val­ley Creek and even­tu­ally into one of our pri­mary drink­ing water sources, the Black War­rior River. The new Rotary Trail is help­ing to make one of the largest pos­i­tive impacts on our community’s water qual­ity in recent history.

WJ-CherylTo cel­e­brate our part­ners bring­ing home these two awards, FWLT Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Wendy Jack­son and Cheryl Mor­gan were asked to speak to the Rotary Club the fol­low­ing week. Gov­er­nor Bent­ley was in atten­dance as well as Attor­ney Gen­eral Luther Strange, while Wendy and Cheryl dis­cussed the Rotary Trail project and their recent hon­ors at the Governor’s Con­ser­va­tion Achieve­ment Awards.

We’re proud to share this suc­cess story with the Rotary Club of Birm­ing­ham and all our part­ners and sup­port­ers who are help­ing bring the Rotary Trail to Birmingham!

WJ-Stan WJ-Gpv

Conservation Awards

AWFThe Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust  was recently selected as the Con­ser­va­tion Orga­ni­za­tion of the Year for the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Governor’s Con­ser­va­tion Achieve­ment Awards!

For more than 40 years, this award has rec­og­nized orga­ni­za­tions that make last­ing con­tri­bu­tions to con­ser­va­tion in Alabama. The Con­ser­va­tion Orga­ni­za­tion of the Year Award is a part of the Governor’s Con­ser­va­tion Achieve­ment Awards, selected by the Alabama Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion (AWF) and one of the high­est hon­ors in the con­ser­va­tion community.

The Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust and its Board of Direc­tors were hon­ored at the Governor’s Con­ser­va­tion Achieve­ment Awards Ban­quet for their work with Red Moun­tain Park, the Red Rock Ridge & Val­ley Trail Sys­tem, and Turkey Creek Nature Pre­serve, includ­ing the removal of Old Shadow Lake Dam on Turkey Creek, a project that opened up an addi­tional half mile of habi­tat for the endan­gered ver­mil­ion darter – a fish native to the Birm­ing­ham area that before this project only had about seven miles of habi­tat in the entire world.

This award helps us con­tinue to carry out our mis­sion of pre­serv­ing the spe­cial places that mat­ter in Alabama, and we are extremely hon­ored to be rec­og­nized as meet­ing AWF’s stan­dards of excel­lence,” Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Wendy Jack­son said.  “This mark of dis­tinc­tion allows us to posi­tion our­selves among the com­mu­nity as ded­i­cated stew­ards of Alabama’s excep­tional and irre­place­able nat­ural her­itage, leav­ing a per­ma­nent legacy for future gen­er­a­tions to admire.”

In addi­tion, the Rotary Club of Birm­ing­ham was selected as Water Con­ser­va­tion­ist of the Year Award for their work on the Rotary Trail. The Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust nom­i­nated Rotary Club, high­light­ing the numer­ous water qual­ity ben­e­fits asso­ci­ated with this trans­for­ma­tional down­town addi­tion to the Red Rock Trail.

The pur­pose of the Governor’s Con­ser­va­tion Achieve­ment Awards pro­gram is to pro­mote lead­er­ship by exam­ple and in turn increase con­ser­va­tion of the nat­ural resources of the State of Alabama – its wildlife, forests, soils, water, and air. The pro­gram is designed to bring about a greater knowl­edge and aware­ness of con­ser­va­tion prac­tices and projects, and to give proper recog­ni­tion to those per­sons and orga­ni­za­tions that make out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the nat­ural resource wel­fare of the com­mu­nity and the state.

Alabama Power Com­pany, a long-time part­ner and sup­porter of the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust, pro­vided the nom­i­na­tion for the award. Bruce Akin, CEO of B.A.S.S., and Randy Jones of Vul­can Mate­ri­als Com­pany pro­vided let­ters of sup­port. It is these spe­cial part­ner­ships with cor­po­rate sup­port­ers like Alabama Power, B.A.S.S., and Vul­can Mate­ri­als Com­pany that allow the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust to con­serve and pro­tect Alabama’s nat­ural and envi­ron­men­tal resources, ensur­ing that con­ser­va­tion efforts are per­ma­nent in Alabama.

This is the sec­ond time the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust has been hon­ored as Con­ser­va­tion Orga­ni­za­tion of the Year award, pre­vi­ously win­ing in 2003 as the Black Warrior-Cahaba River Land Trust.

About Alabama Wildlife Federation:

The Alabama Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion, estab­lished by sports­men in 1935, is the state’s old­est and largest cit­i­zens’ con­ser­va­tion orga­ni­za­tion.  The mis­sion of the Alabama Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion, a 501© 3 non-profit group sup­ported by mem­ber­ship dues and dona­tions, is to pro­mote con­ser­va­tion and wise use of Alabama’s wildlife and related nat­ural resources as a basis for eco­nomic and social pros­per­ity.  To learn more about AWF, includ­ing mem­ber­ship details, pro­grams and projects, con­tact Alabama Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion at 1–800-822-WILD or visit

Welcome Stan Palla

Dennis Pillion Tour_00015_150720Excit­ing news for the Red Rock Ridge & Val­ley Trail Sys­tem.…we are pleased to announce that Stan Palla has joined our team as the Red Rock Trail Director!

Stan Palla, an avid cyclist, pad­dler and hiker, has had a suc­cess­ful career in the pub­lic, pri­vate and non-profit sec­tors. His love for urban spaces, the out­doors and qual­ity of life have guided his career and prin­ci­pal belief to leave every­thing bet­ter than he found it.

His work has caused the plant­ing of over two mil­lion trees in the City of Houston,and he also immensely improved Ruffner Moun­tain Nature Preserve’s pro­gram­ming and grounds as the organization’s exec­u­tive direc­tor. His love for cycling led him to be the Direc­tor for the Alabama Bicy­cle Coali­tion, in which he effec­tively passed the 3-foot pass­ing law in Alabama to pro­tect cyclists on the road. On top of that, his cre­ation and man­age­ment of the urban for­est in Birm­ing­ham became a national award win­ning program. 

Stan’s pas­sion for Birm­ing­ham and improv­ing pub­lic spaces was too grand for him to Stanpass up the Red Rock Ridge and Val­ley posi­tion and sees this as an oppor­tu­nity to leave a last­ing legacy for Birm­ing­ham, Jef­fer­son County and the well being of it cit­i­zens. As the Red Rock Trail Direc­tor, Stan will work with our many part­ners to build the 750-mile trail sys­tem through­out Jef­fer­son County, con­nect­ing our com­mu­nity to the places they want to go.

Wel­come, Stan, to the Fresh­wa­ter family!

Restoring Valley Creek

Photo by Zac Napier

Photo by Zac Napier

We are hon­ored to receive fund­ing from the Shan­non Mine Sup­ple­men­tal Envi­ron­men­tal Project (SEP) agree­ment between the Black War­rior River­keep­ers and Shan­non, LLC, a sub­sidiary of Drum­mond Co., to sup­port restora­tion projects within the Val­ley Creek water­shed, restor­ing flood plains and remov­ing inva­sive species. Thank you to all the par­ties who made this fund­ing pos­si­ble and for help­ing the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust advance its mis­sion of pre­serv­ing the places that matter.

For more infor­ma­tion on this set­tle­ment click here.


Party on the Porch

POP posterJoin us and our part­ners at Alabama Out­doors for the third Party on the Porch event of the sum­mer to ben­e­fit Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust!

Enjoy live music from Jason Bai­ley and Old Fash­ioned Rhythm Method, deli­cious food from Can­tina On Wheels, and refresh­ing local draft beer from Cahaba Brew­ing, avail­able in a $10 col­lectible cup (and served from the awe­some YETI jockey box). Bring your friends and fam­ily for corn hole and face paint­ing for kids (while sup­plies last).

Also, don’t miss your chance to win some awe­some give­aways! We’ll be raf­fling two pairs of tick­ets to Land Aid 2015, our sig­na­ture event at Avon­dale Brew­ery com­ing up on July 31st!

We are so excited to kick off the sum­mer with this event and share some excit­ing news about our upcom­ing projects and events. So bring your lawn chairs and blan­kets and come Party on the Porch with us!

Join our Face­book event and invite friends here.

Read more about Land Aid 2015 pre­sented by Vul­can Value Part­ners here.

Urban Waters Impact

VCThanks to the EPA’s Urban Waters Pro­gram, the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust has been able to accom­plish great things in the Vil­lage Creek water­shed in Birm­ing­ham with our many com­mu­nity part­ners. We are proud to share these suc­cess sto­ries with other urban waters part­ners across the coun­try through the Urban Waters Learn­ing Network.

Check out our impact story here.

Land Aid 2015

The Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust is excited to announce that their 7th annual Land Aid event will be held on Fri­day, July 31, at Avon­dale Brew­ery. The event will be head­lined by Kopecky, an Amer­i­can indie-rock band.

Nashville-based Kopecky (for­merly the Kopecky Fam­ily Band) recently released their sopho­more album, Drug for the Mod­ern Age. Kopecky has had their music appear on a vari­ety of hit tele­vi­sion series includ­ing Grey’s Anatomy, Par­ent­hood, The Vam­pire Diaries and Nashville, among oth­ers. Kopecky has toured all over the world and have played at some of the largest music fes­ti­vals includ­ing Austin City Lim­its, Bum­ber­shoot, SXSW, Lol­la­palooza and most recently Hang­out Fes­ti­val in Gulf Shores.

Pro­ceeds from Land Aid ben­e­fit the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust, a Birmingham-based non­profit orga­ni­za­tion whose mis­sion is to con­serve and con­nect open spaces that are crit­i­cal for the pro­tec­tion of rivers and streams and that pro­vide recre­ational oppor­tu­ni­ties for the com­mu­ni­ties it serves. The event is hosted by the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust junior board, a diverse group of young pro­fes­sion­als com­mit­ted to pro­mot­ing the organization’s mis­sion through­out the com­mu­nity and region.

Our annual flag­ship event, Land Aid, is an oppor­tu­nity for res­i­dents to learn more about our work and sup­port our efforts to con­serve land through­out Cen­tral Alabama,” said Wendy Jack­son, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust. “Since 2007, thou­sands of atten­dees have helped make Land Aid a suc­cess and ulti­mately help­ing to ful­fill our mis­sion to pre­serve the places that mat­ter for future generations.”

The Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust secures land through acqui­si­tion or ease­ments, with the help of many part­ner­ships serv­ing eight coun­ties in Cen­tral Alabama. Through the efforts of the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust staff, board of direc­tors and junior board, more than 10,000 acres of land have been pro­tected across Cen­tral Alabama.

Tick­ets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. To pur­chase tick­ets or learn more about Land Aid, please visit