Scenic. Historic. These words describe the 466-acre Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. However, if not for the Land Trust and a number of other partners, the Nature Preserve may not exist as it does today.
The Preserve is an outstanding example of a private initiative to protect endangered species. At Turkey Creek, the Land Trust worked for two years to combine approximately $1.5 million from the Jefferson County Greenways Program with $750,000 in private landowner contributions to secure support from the Alabama Forever Wild Program, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Jefferson County and others to help establish the 700-acre Turkey Creek Nature Preserve and Greenways.
Turkey Creek, a tributary of Locust Fork, is located a mere 20 minutes north of Birmingham near the community of Pinson. Turkey Creek is home to three endangered species of fish: the Vermilion Darter (Etheostoma chermocki), the Watercress Darter (Etheostoma nuchale), and the Rush Darter (Etheostoma phytophilum). The Rush and Vermilion Darters occur only in Turkey Creek and nowhere else in the world.
Today, Land Trust efforts have leveraged almost $10 million worth of conservation projects in the watershed. The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is owned by Alabama’s Forever Wild Program and co-managed by Forever Wild, the Land Trust, and a local community group named START (Society to Advance the Resources at Turkey Creek). The tract is managed as a nature preserve and thus hosts a number of passive recreational opportunities including hiking and nature photography.
The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is home to an excellent environmental education program. The Land Trust found the perfect educational partners in the Southern Environmental Center and Birmingham-Southern College. The Center’s experience in environmental education, combined with the College’s new Environmental Urban Studies Program, result in an educational experience like no other for area children and college students. Charles Yeager, director of the program, conducts classes throughout the Preserve and at the on-site environmental center. The Freshwater Land Trust was able to purchase the environmental center in 2008 with funds recovered from the sale of the Preserve to Forever Wild.
In addition to significant biological diversity, The Turkey Creek watershed has great historical significance. Since the 1870s, historical accounts record extensive use of the Turkey Creek Falls, located within today’s Nature Preserve site, for picnicking and outdoor recreation.
Several prehistoric Native American sites have been documented. In addition, the home and mill of David Hanby, one of Alabama’s most aggressive early industrialist entrepreneurs and a pioneer in the development of Alabama’s coal industry, has been documented within the Preserve. The site is also home to the ruins of the Mount Pinson Ironworks, a small forge and foundry built in 1863 that supplied horseshoes for Confederate troops during the Civil War.