Just a 20-minute drive north of Birmingham is an oasis far removed from the urban landscape. A place that’s home to some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the region. Here are seven protected plants and animals, along with three endangered species of fish, including one that lives nowhere else in the world.
The 466-acre Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson was established by Alabama’s Forever Wild Program and the Freshwater Land Trust and is co-managed by the Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham-Southern College, which opened an educational center at the preserve in 2009. Offering educational programs that benefit students throughout the region.
Educational opportunities are about to expand will the opening of a new pavilion designed by Birmingham-based ArchitectureWorks. A little over 3,000 square feet under roof, the pavilion is a heavy timber structure with pressure-treated columns and beams, exposed trusses and wood decking, and an exterior skin of stained cypress.
“The building is tall with a nice volume, so it doesn’t feel compressed,” explains ArchitectureWorks partner Bruce Lanier. The multipurpose pavilion contains bathrooms, a kitchenette and a dressing room to use for weddings and other events. The pavilion can seat about 100 people and will be available for rent to help offset the preserve’s operating costs.
Despite the simplicity of the pavilion structure, notes Lanier, its location along a protected waterway required the coordination of a complex set of stakeholders. These include Jefferson County Environmental Services, the city of Pinson, the Freshwater Land Trust, along with corporate supporters including Dunn Construction, who contributed gravel, air conditioning courtesy of Alabama Power and plumbing services by Latta Plumbing. The pavilion is expected to be completed by early 2021, he says.
The pavilion sits on a two-acre site that is part of nine acres that were cleared of invasive, non-native trees and shrubs. This allows the pavilion to provide a panoramic view with its long site line. Lanier says the pavilion design borrows from some of the area’s agricultural structures, but in a more refined language.
The new pavilion is just part of a larger project that began several years ago and included streambank stabilization and forest clearing. A bioswale was created about five years ago and another is planned to produce a natural filtration system and slow down the villosity of water.
A permeable parking area has been built that allows precipitation to naturally drain through to the subsurface. In addition, a 1,400-gallon cistern will be installed to collect runoff from the roof. Collected rain water will be used to irrigate the preserve’s ecosystem.
The fact that Turkey Creek Preserve even exists today is miraculous. This rare environment managed to avoid the impact of development and its crystal-clear, spring-fed waters provide an ideal habitat for protected and endangered species.
“This is a hot spot for habitat and the purpose was not just to build a structure [the new pavilion], but to improve the land around it and provide more educational opportunities for children in the state,” says Turkey Creek Preserve Manager Charles Yeager. “It’s one of the last refuges for protecting these creatures.”
*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images courtesy of ArchitectureWorks