By Shaun Szkolnik for the Tribune
TRUSSVILLE — Carolyn Buck was the featured speaker at the Trussville Area Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday, July 18.
Buck is with the Freshwater Land Trust and director of their Red Rock Trail System, which seeks to connect a large part of cities within the metro area through trails and green spaces. Another part of the Red Rock Trail System’s goals is to develop new trails throughout Jefferson County and help communities to build multi-use trails and encourage individuals to explore trails and parks that are within their communities.
“We (the Freshwater Land Trust) are a non-profit located in downtown Birmingham,” said Buck. “Our mission is to conserve, connect, and care for the lands of Central Alabama.”
The mission of the Freshwater Land Trust breaks down into two primary areas of activity: they conserve land and build trails.
“We are a conservation organization,” said Buck. “We work to permanently preserve property, to protect water quality, to protect habitat, and also to provide recreational access for people in Central Alabama.”
The land trust comes across the lands that they serve in several different ways.
“We work with landowners,” said Buck. “We work with governments; we work with corporations to be able to protect these properties permanently.”
One of the more interesting tools available to the land trust is a conservation easement.
“It is a really exciting thing for us,” said Buck. “(It) is when a land owner actually contacts us and says, ‘I love my land so much that I want to make sure that it is never developed, so what I see now will always be the way this land is.’ So, they actually enter in a very restrictive covenant with us that we hold that, basically, legally bounds them to never develop that property. It is a really great way … to make sure that future generations get to enjoy the things we love.”
Generally, the trust handles the properties they oversee in one of two ways. The first is to let those properties be as they are. The other is to perform restoration projects or habitat enhancements to the property.
“We work with different landowners,” said Buck. “We work with different partners across the state to make sure that our properties are working as best they can for the things that live there and for our water quality.”
It was the desire of increasing access to nature that led the land trust to develop the Red Rock Trail System.
“It is a master plan (to build) 750 miles of hiking trails,” said Buck. “Off-road biking and walking trails and bike lanes that would touch every single community in Jefferson County; not only connecting us to natural areas in our own backyard, but also creating a more interconnected Jefferson County.”
The project currently has around 150 miles completed, so while a lot of work has been completed, a lot more remains to be done.
“The point of this was, we really wanted to make sure that green space was accessible to everybody,” said Buck. “So, no matter where you lived, what your income was, your level of mobility is, we wanted to make sure that not only you had a green space you could go to, but you could access it without any barriers.”
Buck believes that Trussville has a lot to offer to the arena of seamlessly merging cities and green spaces.
“Trussville is doing a whole lot of great things over here,” said Buck. “Your Civitan Park trail is kind of the gold standard of all trails. We send all of our perspective municipalities to y’all’s trail to see what it can look like to have a really great trail along a really important waterway, how that can become an asset for your city.”
A partnership with Trussville is something the Red Rock Trail System believes in.
“We’re really excited to continue to work with Trussville,” said Buck. “To continue building trails and making your area more pedestrian … friendly.”