The effort to bring a Forever Wild nature preserve to Springville cleared its first hurdle this week, according to a release from St. Clair County.
County and city officials recently received notification that the proposed Forever Wild Nature Preserve — known as Big Canoe Creek — received the go-ahead from the Forever Wild Land Trust Board of Directors, whose members voted to commission the first of two land appraisals. The approval is the initial step in acquiring the proposed tract, a 380-acre property near Homestead Hollow. This appraisal is expected to be complete by June and discussion will begin with the current property owner.
Wendy Jackson, executive director of Alabama’s Freshwater Land Trust, first brought the project to the attention of the Springville City Council in July 2012.
“This is a long process,” Jackson said. “It could be 6-8 months before we know if the project will go through. Ordering the first appraisal is step one.”
The city of Springville voted to commit itself, both financially ($50,000) and as “managing partner” for any potential park, and the St. Clair County Commission committed $150,000 at a meeting in December. Commission Chairman Stan Batemon appeared at a recent Forever Wild board meeting to promote the project.
“This is an important hurdle in the process of creating a special place for St. Clair County within the framework of a nature park,” Batemon said. “Working with the Forever Wild Land Trust Board to create this special place will be a benefit for not only St. Clair County citizens, but for all citizens in this region by providing wild spaces for us to appreciate and reflect on our lives.”
In addition to its financial commitment, Springville has committed to building restrooms, trails and lighting. The city would also be responsible for the day-to-day tasks of fire and police protection and clean up.
“The mayor, city council and citizens of the city of Springville are excited and optimistic with the decision made by the Forever Wild Board of Directors to pursue the purchase of a 380-acre tract of land located within our city limits that will serve as a destination point for many walkers, joggers, hikers and outdoorsmen,” said Springville Mayor William Isley. “This beautiful property, and the Big Canoe Creek tributary that is located within its boundaries, will become a jewel in the crown of an old historic town that prides itself in maintaining and preserving the natural state of our environment.”
Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust was established by constitutional amendment in 1992 and since then has purchased more than 227,000 acres of land in Alabama for public use. These acquisitions have created more than 220 miles of recreational use trails within 21 new recreational areas and nature preserves. It has also provided additions to 10 State Parks and 17 Wildlife Management Areas. Forever Wild projects include Cold Water Mountain in Calhoun County, as well as Turkey Creek and Ruffner Mountain both located in Jefferson County.
Financial support for these projects is funded through interest earned from natural gas royalties. The Trust receives 10 percent of distributed interest and is capped at $15 million per year. Another source of funding is through the Forever Wild Land Trust license plate.
Alabama drivers can purchase this tag for $50 a year with $42.50 going to support the Forever Wild Land Trust mission. In addition, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and partners have developed competitive grant proposals matching state funds to federal funds, securing more than $41.4 million to support land acquisitions.