By Gary Lloyd
Its momentum is building like a strong current.
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson is just a place with rushing waters, with long-leaf pines and cypress and cedar trees towering above, shielding its visitors from the hot sun. The 466-acre preserve is tucked away just off Narrows Road, and it’s a northeast Jefferson County gem, a diamond in the rough.
The diamond is starting to shine brighter.
Earlier this month, the preserve was named one of 28 trails designated as a national recreation trail by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Director of the National Park Service Jonathan B. Jarvis. Three nature trails totaling 2.13 miles showcase the unique beauty of the preserve, according to a press release. The paved Highland Trail provides walkers and bicyclists a moderate climb through the Highland Forest; the easy Boy Scout Trail takes hikers past some of the most scenic reaches along the banks of Turkey Creek; and the Thompson Trace offers some of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing.
The plans for this summer are extensive, the calendar full.
A new trail should be open for the July 20 Float Your Boat event, which will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Resident Manager Charles Yeager said there will be a 5K trail run at the new trail that day.
“When this trail opens, visitors will have the opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful, and previously inaccessible, regions of the preserve,” Yeager said.
That day’s events will also feature balsa wood boat races, build your own boat races and a kids fun zone.
Earlier this year, the Friends of Turkey Creek realized that the preserve’s mascot, the endangered Vermillion Darter, which is only found at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, needed a name. The Friends enlisted Pinson Elementary School students with the opportunity to have their say as to what the Float Your Boat Darter’s name should be. After combing through hundreds of entries, the name was determined to be “Dan the Darter.”
Four times since March, the Turkey Creek Long Rifles group has performed Living History demonstrations, showing patrons what life was like for some of the first settlers and industrialists in the state of Alabama. The $1 demonstrations, which are scheduled for Sept. 14-15 and Oct. 12-13, include camp cooking, loading/firing flintlock muskets, storytelling, tomahawk throwing and a Native American demonstration garden. Participants may also go on a guided tour of the preserve.
The preserve earlier this year began providing pedestrian friendly hours from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., in which the main gates remain closed to motor vehicular traffic, but a side gate is opened to allow pedestrian traffic into the preserve.
Yeager hopes to continue to add features to the preserve and host Pinson Valley High School classes. There is seemingly already something to do, something to see, in the 1.4 miles from the preserve’s entrance to exit — swimming in Blue Hole, where it is 20 feet deep, hiking the trails, fishing, sightseeing.
Yeager has a degree in urban environmental sciences from Birmingham-Southern College, and his first time coming to the preserve was in 2009. He’s been the resident manager for a year and a half. He said he used to ride his motorcycle to the preserve during final exams, writing papers beneath the trees.
“We’re proud of (the preserve), where it comes from and where it’s going,” he said.
Yeager said he plans to take the preserve to the next level, through fun events, new features and social media like his new website, www.turkeycreeknp.wordpress.com. He lives in a house not far from the preserve’s entrance, and he’s not in a hurry to leave.
“I love it here,” he said. “I mean, what’s not to love?”
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.