The Nature Conservancy in Alabama, Cahaba River Society and Alabama Innovation Engine have partnered to launch a community-oriented project promoting the beauty and benefits of the Cahaba River. The “Cahaba Blueway,” a comprehensive canoe trail running through central Alabama, strives to increase education, recreation, economic opportunity and visibility of the Cahaba River. The Blueway will promote outdoor recreational opportunities on the river, while linking greenways, parks, preserves and historic sites in the central Alabama region.
“The Nature Conservancy has been working to protect the Cahaba River and its unique biodiversity for many years, including the protection of over 3,800 acres in the watershed. We understand the importance and benefits of the Cahaba and can raise awareness for others by improving river access and encouraging them to experience it for themselves,” said Chris Oberholster, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Alabama. “Our partnership with the Cahaba River Society and Alabama Innovation Engine is raising the visibility of the Blueway, as well as its importance to the state of Alabama and
local communities along the trail.”
The Cahaba is an incredible resource for Alabama but is largely inaccessible to residents and visitors, as many public access and canoe sites are not adequately equipped or are simply unknown to users. When completed, the project will improve access to the river with a blueway (or canoe trail) that includes approximately 30 sites stretching over more than 190 miles of river and tributaries.
“We want people, especially our youth, to spend more time outdoors, get to know the Cahaba and make the connection between healthy rivers, a healthy lifestyle, high quality drinking water and our rich wildlife heritage,” added Beth Stewart, Executive Director for Cahaba River Society. “Bringing people to the Cahaba River is the best way to help them understand and connect with the Cahaba’s values in a way that sparks lifelong stewardship commitment.”
The Blueway project has already gained significant support. The National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program has selected the Cahaba Blueway as one of 11 new partnership projects in the Southeast to receive technical and planning assistance in 2013 for developing new outdoor recreation opportunities and conserving important local natural resources in their areas.
“The National Park Service RTCA program is excited to be working with The Nature Conservancy in Alabama and many other area partners to highlight the importance of the Cahaba River to this region, not only for water supply, but also for its abundant conservation and recreation values,” stated Alison Bullock, Community Planner, NPS Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance.
The Nature Conservancy has also received support from the Hugh Kaul Foundation and Robert R. Meyer Foundation to jumpstart what will be a multi-year project including cataloging the sites and site needs and developing improvement designs.
The Cahaba River Society, Alabama Innovation Engine and Douglas Barrett, Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, secured a grant from SAPPI Fine Paper North America’s “Ideas that Matter” program. The funding will be used to produce a book and video to tell the story of the Cahaba River.
“A Cahaba Blueway will reveal and highlight the positive aspects of the Cahaba River and its multiple benefits,” said Matt Leavell, Project Director for Alabama Innovation Engine. “All three organizations share an interest in improving Alabama by focusing on assets and working collaboratively to create positive change in the state.”
Founded as a chapter of the international organization in 1989, The Nature Conservancy in Alabama has safeguarded more than 144,000 acres across Alabama that protect hundreds of rare and imperiled species of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The Conservancy bases its activities on sound science and uses non-confrontational, market-based economic solutions to protect critical habitats.
The Cahaba River Society (CRS) is recognized nationally for river stewardship. Its mission is to restore and protect the Cahaba River watershed and its rich diversity of life. With values of education, collaboration, stewardship, and integrity, its program focus is educating future and current community leaders, promoting sustainable development for stormwater management and drinking water efficiency, improving water quality protections at the local, state and federal level, restoring habitat for freshwater life, promoting recreation, greenways and economic growth centered on tourism, and encouraging stewardship of creation with interfaith partners.
AL Innovation Engine (Engine) is a design-based community development initiative. A partnership between Auburn University’s Urban Studio and The University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development, its mission is to improve Alabama through design. Engine seeks to accomplish this mission through three complimentary methods: 1) Organizing and hosting design summits to identify responses to large scale issues, 2) identifying and coordinating regional-based, long-term projects with potential to have positive broad social and economic impacts, and 3) facilitating partnerships between professional designers and community non-profits.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy
205 251 1155, ext 107
Cahaba River Society
205 322 5326
Alabama Innovation Engine
205 323 3592