By Crystal McGough
PINSON – The city of Pinson and the Freshwater Land Trust (FLT), in partnership with Birmingham-Southern College’s Southern Environmental Center, finalized a property exchange on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.
The city gave it’s 34-acre “Dry Creek” property off Sweeney Hollow Road to FLT in exchange for approximately 30 acres of land at the entrance to the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, where the city plans to build a pavilion. Renting out the pavilion will help raise funds for TCNP’s education center.
“The city wholeheartedly agreed to simply exchange tracts,” Mayor Hoyt Sanders said in a press release. “This is a win-win for all parties.”
FLT already owned over 80 acres of flood mitigation properties and has conserved over 400 additional acres in the city of Pinson, so trading for the 34 acres of undeveloped floodplain off Sweeney Hollow Road was logical.
“The land trust is really set to own and manage, if you will, unoccupied territory or parcels,” Sanders said at Thursday night’s council meeting. “They said, ‘Why don’t we just swap, that way no money changes hands.’ So that worked out.”
In the press release, Roald Hazelhoff, director of the Southern Environmental Center at BCS, said that the land swap was a positive for all sides involved.
“Extending city boundaries to TCNP will make it easier for Pinson to provide fire/police protection & garbage service to the area, including our soon-to-be completed classroom pavilion,” he said. “Conversely, Freshwater Land Trust’s acquisition of the Dry Creek tract strengthens our longstanding partnership to protect and enhance local watersheds.”
At Thursday night’s council meeting, FLT Executive Director Rusha Smith, along with conservation director Liz Simms, presented Hazelhoff and the city of Pinson with a $5,000 check to help with the construction of the pavilion.
“I told the mayor today at the closing … sometimes things just come together at the right time and in the right place,” Smith said. “Roald was in the process of building the pavilion, and obviously, our organization and particularly our board just weren’t sure how we would be able to do that. We’re not in the business of managing facilities that have educational opportunities and also recreational opportunities like that. We conserve properties to make sure they are never developed.
“As a token of our appreciation for this community and how much we care about this area, and just the environmentally sensitive nature of it, our board and our organization wanted to make a $5,000 donation. We made it payable to the city of Pinson but I told the mayor we want it to be used for Turkey Creek Nature Preserve and the construction of the pavilion, if you so desire.”
Smith added that Turkey Creek Nature Preserve has a special place in her heart and the hearts of everyone at FLT, as FWL was involved in founding Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. She also extended her gratitude for Sanders, who served his last city council meeting as mayor Thursday night.
“I can’t say enough about what a wonderful partner Mayor Sanders has been throughout this process,” Smith said. “He was extremely patient, very innovative (and) worked with us on all of it. We are so excited. We think it’s a wonderful thing for not only Pinson, but also Turkey Creek Nature Preserve and the Southern Environmental Center. It will remain in wonderful hands and we will continue to be a partner in this community while we manage the properties that we own here and hope to acquire more.”
Mayor-Elect Joe Cochran expressed his enthusiasm for the continued partnership between the Freshwater Land Trust, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve and the city of Pinson in the press release.
“I am excited for the continued partnership between the Freshwater Land Trust and the City of Pinson,” Cochran said. “These relationships have helped make Pinson and the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve a destination for families from all over the Alabama and the country.”