Communities play a pivotal role in preserving and acquiring land for green spaces, ensuring that areas like the Big Canoe Creek Nature Preserve, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, and Ruffner Mountain thrive rather than disappear. Without the dedication and action of individuals and groups advocating for conservation, these natural havens could easily succumb to development pressures. Through grassroots efforts, fundraising, and lobbying, people champion the protection of such spaces, recognizing their intrinsic value for biodiversity, recreation, and mental well-being. Consequently, these places become sanctuaries for wildlife, oases for relaxation, and educational resources for future generations, all thanks to the active involvement of people who understand the importance of safeguarding our natural heritage.

We hope you can make it to our Bus Tour focusing on our valued greenspaces in our community on Thursday, April 25th. Let’s meet some of the people behind the preserves:

Ruffner Mountain Nature Coalition (Carlee Sanford) – Carlee holds a Bachelors of Science in Marketing from the University of Alabama, and for almost ten years she has worked in marketing and management, maintaining relationships with a whole host of clients around the state, from Alabama Power to Steel City Pops and Shoal Creek Properties. Carlee knows how to market and manage, but most importantly, she is a problem solver, using her uncanny intuitive ability to get to the heart of the issue and take the proper steps to address it, untangle it, and turn it into a solution. If at times she seems a little “all over the place”, it’s because she is skillfully juggling many projects in her head and her hands. The people of Ruffner are proud to follow Carlee to the proverbial mountaintop.

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve – (Charles Yeager)  Charles’ passion for the outdoors led him to pursue a career in conservation, utilizing his degree in Urban Environmental Studies from Birmingham-Southern College.  After completing his studies, Charles took a position as a Field Biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Natural Resource Damage Assessment, where he assessed oyster populations along the Gulf of Mexico coast following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident.  Since 2012, Charles has managed Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson, Alabama. This 466-acre Preserve is home to five Endangered fish species, alongside threatened species of bats, turtles, and plants.

Big Canoe Creek Nature Preserve (Doug Morrison) – Doug worked for Integrated Benefits Solutions, Inc. from 1995 to 2022 as a Senior Systems Analyst in the 401k Recordkeeping Business. In July 2022, he accepted his dream job as Springville’s Big Canoe Nature Preserve Manager. Doug served as Board President for The Friends of Big Canoe Creek a non-profit from 2008-2020. During his time with The Friends of Big Canoe Creek, he helped create the Big Canoe Creek Nature Preserve by nominating parcels of land to the State of Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust. In 2015 he received the River Hero Award from the Alabama Rivers Alliance. He also served as Board President for the Coosa Riverkeeper for a few years and is currently on this board serving as Governance Committee Chair. Doug was also a volunteer on the Parks and Rec Board for the City of Springville before accepting his new position with the city. He also serves on the City’s Planning and Zoning Committee.

After spending time with the dedicated individuals defending and protecting our nature preserves, attendees can participate in a panel discussion over lunch at Ruffner Mountain, led by Carlee Sanford. The panel will delve into strategies for land acquisition to create more green spaces, featuring insights from leaders at Freshwater Landtrust, Cahaba Riverkeeper, Nature Conservancy, and the North Alabama Land Trust.

Reserve your seat on the bus by emailing Shravya Utlapalli at