Turkey Creek Nature Preserve
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is a 466-acre preserve of mixed pine and hardwood forest along Turkey Creek located off Pinson Valley Parkway at 3906 Turkey Creek Road in Pinson. It is home to three endangered species of fish, the rush darter, the vermilion darter, and the watercress darter, plus a population of the endangered flattened musk turtle. The rush and vermilion darters are unique to Turkey Creek. The property was acquired by Alabama's Forever Wild Land Trust and is co-owned by the Jefferson County Commission. Management of the park is a cooperative effort of the Alabama Public Lands Division, the Fresh Water Land Trust and the Society to Advance the Resources at Turkey Creek (START), while the City of Pinson has agreed to provide garbage removal. Taylor Steele is the current land manager.
The falls on Turkey Creek have been used for recreation and picnicking since the 1870s. Prior to that, David Hanby lived and operated a mill on part of the property.
In 1998, Jefferson County proposed building a prison at the site, causing the people of Pinson to form the Society To Advance the Resources at Turkey Creek (START). The group nominated the site for the state's Forever Wild Program, but was turned down.
The following year, the county canceled the prison plans. County Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins formed a Turkey Creek Watershed Development Committee, which recommended the site become a 630-acre nature preserve. The committee nominated the site to Forever Wild again in 2000, but with multiple people owning the land wanted for the preserve, the plans stalled.
In 2001, the committee met with the Freshwater Land Trust for guidance. The Land Trust offered to help obtain the land and partners for the project. They first got John Akin and Martha Akin Walston to donate 21 undisturbed acres along the creek that had been in the family for over a century. They wanted the property preserved in honor of their grandfather, R. DuPont Thompson, the original landowner. The family also provided a conservation easement on an additional three acres, which includes a home built in the beginning of the 20th century. The Trust met with Patrick O'Sullivan in 2002. By offering a package of tax benefits, the Land Trust convinced him to sell 141 acres and donate 40 additional acres around the creek, including the falls area.
In 2003, the Land Trust received an $853,000 grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which it used to secure another 47 acres from the Thomas family, who also wished to see the area preserved as part of their heritage. This land included the vermilion darters' spawning habitat. The Land Trust and County Commission then packaged 466 acres of acquired land and again nominated it to Forever Wild. Valued at $4.7 million, charitable partners allowed the sale of the land for $2 million. The Land Trust retained the 24 acres donated by the Akin and Walston families for the creation of an interpretive center.
In 2008, the Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham-Southern College, with the help of volunteers, created an ecoscape, a garden of native plants, on a former parking lot near the entrance above the falls. The improved park opened officially on May 9, 2009.
- "The Anatomy of a Deal". (December 4, 2007) Fresh Water Land Trust -accessed April 15, 2009.
- Jaffe, Dana (February 25, 2009) "Pinson trash bin to enhance Turkey Creek preserve cleanliness." Birmingham News
- Spencer, Thomas (November 3, 2008) "Turkey Creek Falls gets second chance." Birmingham News
- Keith, Todd (May 12, 2009) "Turkey Creek Nature Preserve Grand Opening." Birmingham News
- Spencer, Thomas (December 7, 2010) "Habitat for endangered vermilion darter expanded in Jefferson County's Turkey Creek." Birmingham News