2023 Impact Report - Cahaba River Society
2023 has been an incredible year for the Cahaba River. We are pleased to share our 2023 Impact Report. A downloadable PDF overview is available here.
Check out our 2023 Milestones or use these links to skip ahead and learn more about our programs’ impact in 2023.
Cahaba River Society’s 2023 Milestones
Historic Land and Drinking Water Protection Secured
Cahaba River Society, Cahaba Riverkeeper, and Southern Environmental Law Center secured a legal agreement to protect 7,000 acres of forested land around the Birmingham area’s primary drinking water source. This 75-year agreement is the largest single land protection in the history of the Birmingham metropolitan area, and it will protect the health and wallets of our diverse people for generations. Click hear to learn more.
Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Initiatives
We believe that all people have the right to clean, healthy water, education, and the healing power of nature. These equity values are influencing goals and metrics across all Cahaba River Society programs. Our peopleshed is 46% people of color. To protect and restore the Cahaba, we must engage, serve, and be led by this diverse population.
In 2023, the EDI Committee of Board, staff, and community leaders led a plan of action priorities, including:
- Guiding Board recruitment to increase diversity
- Deepening equity action across programs
- Updating our people and culture values
- Reviving Young Professionals of the CRS -YPCRS – to increase the diversity of our leadership- towards launch in early 2024.
La’Tanya Scott Featured at International Peace Conference
Education Director La’Tanya Scott served as a panelist at Birmingham’s International Peace Conference. panelist at Birmingham’s International Peace Conference. Her presentation demonstrated how nature education for diverse youth provides a path to peace.
Cahaba Inspired Art Exhibition
CRS and a new organization and partner, Arts Trussville, collaborated to hold Cahaba Inspired in November 2023. This themed art show celebrated the River and helped kick off a new arts organization for Trussville.
BioBlitz Citizen Science
Cahaba BioBlitz is an exciting citizen science and public education event. The 2nd annual event was held on April 15, 2023, at Shelby County’s Cahaba River Park. BioBlitz brought 150 participants and scientists from 7 states and 12 organizations, including universities, state agencies, civic groups, and nonprofit partners. In just 7 hours, they logged 675 observations and 300 species!
This event will document biodiversity at different Cahaba-related locations annually during Earth Month.
We will hold an Earth Month BioBlitz each year at different Cahaba-related places around the watershed to help people learn more about
the natural wonders in their communities. Shelby County and Forever Wild were excited that this citizen science event introduced more than half the attendees to this wonderful park for the first time.
The Low Down on the Fry-Down
Learn more about our largest fundraiser of the year, a team competition catfish cookoff and water education festival, at frydown.com. The 2023 Fry-Down raised nearly $70,000 to restore and protect the Cahaba River. 10 community and corporate teams cooked over 400 pounds of catfish for more than 800 attendees.
Save the date to join us next year on September 29, 2024, and check frydown.com for updates.
Beth Stewart Wins Alabama Women of Conservation Award
Executive Director Beth Stewart became just the 2nd person to receive the Alabama Women of
Conservation Award from The Nature Conservancy. The award celebrates those who effect change on behalf of environmental conservation and inspire others to follow suit.
River Ramble Returns!
Over 60 trail runners came together for our 13th Cahaba River Ramble at the Cahaba River Park in Shelby County. Runners enjoyed a gorgeous new trail race along the Cahaba and had the opportunity to stay and become a part of our BioBlitz event!
River Sustainability – 2023 Impact
Restoring the Cahaba River by advocating for clean water, biodiversity, green infrastructure, and natural flows.
Our River Sustainability Program is transforming new urban development design and repairing the legacy of failing stormwater practices to:
- Restore the river
- Safeguard the cost, quality, and supply of our drinking water
- Protect our treasure of biodiversity
- Ensure the river’s resilience into the future
Cahaba River Society is also at the table for Hoover and Jefferson County’s parks and trails master planning, centering the Cahaba River’s restoration and protection.
Met with developers, city officials, and residents in Hoover, Liberty Park, and Vestavia Hills to recommend green infrastructure, floodplain, and river buffer solutions. infrastructure, floodplain, and river buffer solutions.
Engaged with 120 leaders from local government, development professions, and citizen and environmental groups through stormwater training and watershed stakeholder meetings.
Water Resource and Recreation Planning
The Cahaba River Society is collaborating with The Nature Conservancy to complete the Shades Creek Watershed Plan. We cosponsored a workshop to help key community stakeholders understand opportunities for restoration projects and funding.
Growth Through Partnership
Partnered with The Nature Conservancy in Alabama to launch The Urban River Restoration Collaborative to work cooperatively with governments, developers, civic groups, and nonprofits in the Cahaba and Locust Fork headwaters of the Birmingham Metro area.
Karen Bareford Joins Cahaba River Society as River Sustainability Director
We are pleased to announce that Karen Bareford, Ph. D., has joined the Cahaba River Society team. As our River Sustainability Director, she will lead efforts to restore the Cahaba River by advocating for clean water, biodiversity, green infrastructure, and natural flows.
Shane Hulsey CLEAN Environmental Education Program – 2023 Impact
Providing hands-on environmental education in the Cahaba River watershed.
The Shane Hulsey CLEAN (Children Linking in the Environment Across the Nation) Environmental Education Program is the Cahaba River Society’s student-focused education and outreach program. 2023 has been a year of significant progress and expansion, thanks to our supporters and partners.
- 2,010 Students Served
- 310 Teachers Served
- 25 Canoe Trips
- 19 Classroom Presentations
- 25 Stream Walks
- 48% of participants were people of color, matching our peopleshed
- Partnered with UAB to develop an updated curriculum.
- Created “Know Before You Go,” a video to improve our interactions with teachers and students.
- Engaged with new schools and nonprofits in underserved communities so that 48% of students served are people of color, mirroring our peopleshed demographics.
- Exceeded pre-pandemic service levels.
- Served students from the Black Belt and secured new field trip locations near them.
A Funeral Fit For A Fish
Chris had never considered the significance of a river’s habitat. In fact, he’d never been to a river before the day he made a profound connection that opened new doors for his future.
To read about Chris and the funeral he led when one little darter departed this life, visit cahabariversociety.org/fish-funeral.
Volunteer Stewardship – 2023 Impact
Connecting people to the Cahaba through hands-on experiences to inspire care for the river.
2023 has been a banner year for the Cahaba River Society’s Volunteer Stewardship program. We served with 35 different partner organizations, including churches, schools, city governments, parks and recreation departments, energy providers, news stations, local bars and breweries, and more. It’s truly amazing what can be accomplished when so many people come together around a common goal.
In 2023, Cahaba River Society’s volunteer mobilization program more than doubled our volunteers and impact, removing 19,722 total lbs of litter, recycling, tires, and invasive species.
- 35 partner organizations
- 587 volunteers
- 12,208 lbs of trash removed by hand
- 300 lbs of cans and bottles recycled
- 3,814 lbs of tires removed
- 3,400 lbs of invasive species removed
Earth Week River Cleanups Launched
In April of this year, the Cahaba River Society coordinated more than 200 volunteers over 5 consecutive days to remove trash, recycling, and invasive species from the Cahaba River Watershed. What these volunteers accomplished was incredible. Our work would not be possible without these diverse partnerships and the countless individuals who volunteer their time.
- 215 Volunteers
- 19 Partners
- 2,471 lbs of trash removed
- 259 lbs of aluminum cans and plastic bottles recycled
- 1,285 lbs of tires recycled
- 1,000 lbs of privet removed
Kudzu Eradication at Grant’s Mill Canoe Launch
Invasive species make their way around the world in many different ways. Some of the most notable invasive vegetation in the southeast are plants that were introduced with the best of intentions. Kudzu (Pueria montana) is one of these introduced invaders. If you’ve ever driven down a country road, you’ve likely seen kudzu blanketing the forest next to the road.
Kudzu first gained popularity in the states in 1876 when Japanese representatives showcased the plant as a trellis-climbing vine. By the 1900s, the USDA was recommending kudzu as an erosion control method for bare soil areas. It’s difficult to estimate how much of the US southeast is now blanketed in the vine.
In October, CRS staff removed hundreds of pounds of kudzu and privet from the boat launch at Grants Mill Road without resorting to herbicide spray. Spraying is a commonly accepted method for the removal of invasive species like kudzu, but cutting and removing the vine at the root crown is a much more environmentally friendly removal method that eliminates the potential for overspray, killing native vegetation, running to the River, worsening soil erosion and bank instability, and causing adverse health effects to workers.
Volunteers will continue to work at the Grants Mill launch over the next growing seasons to ensure the complete removal of kudzu, proliferation of native vegetation, and bank stability of the steep slopes. Special thanks to 2022 Cahaba River Society Conservationist of the Year, Ginny Brown, for her continued efforts at the Grants Mill site.