SPRINGVILLE — The city council pledged its support for a nature preserve at its Monday meeting.
The council unanimously approved a motion to authorize Mayor William Isley to write a letter to Alabama’s Forever Wild board, pledging that the city would serve as “managing partner” for a proposed nature preserve site. The letter will also propose that the city contribute $50,000 to the purchase of the land.
The proposed site — which is located on St. Clair 9, across from Homestead Hollow — is 362 acres, with Big Canoe Creek flowing through it. Forever Wild, a state land trust program that purchases land for public conservation, has already heard presentations regarding the property.
“We’ve had this on the books about three years,” said Doug Morrison, representing Friends of Big Canoe Creek. “As we’ve gone, the ranking for our property has gone up. We’re at No. 3 in recreation right now; we’re hopeful that if we keep on presenting, we’ll keep improving.”
Wendy Jackson, a county resident who is executive director of the Freshwater Land Trust, pitched the idea to the council during a work session. She said the city’s support would go a long way toward convincing the state.
“If they (at Forever Wild) know they have managing partners, have a community that’s willing to help them offset the purchase price,” Jackson said. “Such a commitment would mean to you, that you would be looking at, basically, a multi-million dollar property that you can acquire in your community for a small investment, if you decide to financially invest.”
Jackson said the property compares favorably to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson, and could feature hiking and biking trails, as well as horseback riding, and other amenities.
“I believe that Springville has a great opportunity,” she said. “You know better than anybody, because you’ve done such a great job with Homestead Hollow, with your new parks, your green space – Springville knows how to design a community that will sustain itself and attract people to your community. You’ve kept the integrity of this small town intact, when so many other communities have given over to sprawl and massive development.”
Council members expressed enthusiasm for the project. Councilman Wayne Tucker said the proposed property was brought to the city as a potential subdivision in years past.
“That’s a lot better use for this property for the citizens than what was proposed for use four years ago,” Tucker said. “It’s a lot more benefit to us.”
Councilman Herbert Toles expressed some misgivings about the city’s commitment to manage the property.
“We’re talking about more officers, more people picking up trash,” Toles said. “Right now we’re stretched out with what we have right now.”
Tucker said the city could handle the responsibility.
“If it’s just closing the gate at night and picking up garbage, I would think we could handle that,” he said. “If we can’t, we need to regroup.”
The next meeting of the Forever Wild board is scheduled for September. Jackson said she planned to entreat the St. Clair County Commission for a similar commitment, if possible, before that meeting.
“What we would love is to go back to that meeting with pledges from the city, the Friends as a volunteer group and the county as well,” she said. “You ideally want to be first, but if you’re first and there are no managing partners or people championing it the way the Friends and our organization has done, the third piece of property can move up the ranks if you have the support behind it. Believe me, it makes a difference.”
If Forever Wild were to agree to buy the property, the process would still likely take over a year to complete, and Springville’s contribution to the purchase would not be required if the deal did not happen. The Friends of Big Canoe Creek have also pledged to do volunteer work at the site when necessary.
Jackson said the proposed park could help generate tourism dollars and increase property values in the city.
“People are driven to these places by the website and the education campaigns that they’re doing, and it means tourism dollars for your community,” she said. “You get all of the benefits, for very, very little investment.”