Monday, August 17, 2015

UofA Outdoor Action 2015

UofA Outdoor Action 2015/2016

Spradling Bottom is a place few people know about on Hurricane Creek. It lies just inside the Hurricane Creek watershed above the confluence with the Black Warrior River. It was once owned and farmed by the Spradling family. For many years it was cut off from entry by a sand and gravel pit that has been long since reclaimed. Now it is owned by Dr's Doug and Angelia Woodward. Both are fine physicians from the Tuscaloosa area. They have graciously donated the use of the land to Friends of Hurricane Creek for a downstream takeout for canoes, kayaks, and Creekkeeper patrols.
Spradling Bottom, All photo copyrights by John L. Wathen / Flight provided by SouthWings
The house seen in the top center is the Woodward home. Hurricane Creek is right below the house and makes a horse shoe bend all the way around the bottom field.
 For years I have been limited to access to the mouth of the creek for surveillance during rain events due to private and government owned land issues. With this new location I will have permanent access to the mouth of the creek. It is critical to show people the total impact from poorly maintained construction sites, coal mining, poor road maintenance, and other earth disturbing activities In the photo on the left I was able to capture the view from a SouthWings flight.

This is what it looked like at 08:30 AM

The University of Alabama, Outdoor Action group led by Mr. Randy Mecredy showed up at 8:30 AM as scheduled. Student leaders took charge and laid out the marching orders for the days projects.

Anyone not paying attention got doused with the lead organizers water pistol!

             I wondered if by the end of the day if these smiles would still be so enthusiastic. It was going to be a long day after all.

 The project actually started a few days earlier in a swamp near Moundville. My good friends Nelson Brooke and Elizabeth Salter were married on the banks of a beautiful Cypress bog in an old ox-bow off of the Black Warrior River. A large deck was built for the wedding with this view as a backdrop for the ceremony.

Nelson's family owns the land and have been huge supporters of Friends of Hurricane Creek and your Hurricane Creekkeeper for many years. In keeping with their generosity Nelson donated the treated wood to be salvaged from the deck for various projects in and around the Hurricane Creek watershed. Using a crew from Outdoor Action we began taking it apart and re-purposing the wood at Spradling Bottom.

Crews began at once removing screws from the wood and stacking it where we could get it for the new change room for FoHC members who paddle this section to get out of wet clothes.

The deck was screwed together 5 years ago so there was a lot of work just getting it ready for use.

While that was going on another crew began clearing the invasive species, privit from the area where a pavilion will be built later. All nine species of privet currently in the southeast U.S. are invasive. Biological species invasion is considered a main component of global ecosystem change due to changes in biogeochemical cycles and disturbance regimes.
Invasive species such as privet are known to alter the dominant vegetation type, soil properties, animal behavior, and the natural cycling of resources.

Some of the bushes had grown into trees that really took some persuading to get them out!

Once we had a clear working space construction on the change room began in earnest. I could tell that many of the volunteers had little experience with carpentry but is was fun watching their excitement as they improvised ways to get the job done.

Lunch Break!

After a hard morning clearing and cleaning the group took a lunch break. I would normally sit down and rest my old bones on a break but not this group!  Some sat in the newly cleared road and ate while singing while another group went to the water.

The creek was a bit muddy from the rain the night before but that didn't stop the fun.
Some even took advantage of it to have lunch in the water

There were hammocks hung in the trees and used as sofas for those who wanted to sit in the woods and talk.

When the crew came in from clearing the creek of debris I was pleased and disheartened at the same time. The number of tires they removed in just a short stretch of creek was too many. Everything from passenger car tires to huge tractor tires and even one big truck tire someone descried as weighing a ton.

We see this a lot. For some unknown reason there is an element of people who think it is ok to drive to the nearest stream crossing and toss out all manner of trash ranging from old tires to household garbage. We expected to have a lot of debris after the April 27, 2011 tornado but these tires were not from the tornado. They came from people who simply do not care about our waterways.

After lunch and before work began again there was a lot of singing and then the dance lessone broke out... What a hoot to be around these energetic young adults.

At the end of the work day many of the volunteers hit the water. It was great to see this many young adult enjoying Hurricane Creek and hear their remarks about the majesty of it all.

I couldn't be everywhere. We had several projects going on that day that I couldn't go and take photos. I hope the students will soon share any they may have so I can post them but here is what I found when I went to check on the extended projects.

At the Watson's Bend campground privit had choked all beach access for the most part. The group sent to clear it did a fantastic job leaving big wide trails to the water at two separate locations for canoe put it and takeout.

This was the site of many church Baptisms throughout history. It is still a great swimming hole today after several years of help from
U of A Outdoor Action volunteers helping remove the tornado debris.

This site was covered with privit for over a decade that I know of. After the tornado it was the only shady place left in the campground. Once again, using Outdoor Action volunteers as well as a host of other organizations we were able to clear it for camping. This year the group opened up a newer place to take out canoes and just walk down to the creek for summer wading. 

I can say enough nice things about Dr. Fran Oneal, Randy Mecredy and all of the crew at the University for starting the tradition of bringing this workforce to Hurricane Creek. It has been a great relationship that I hope lasts for generations to come.

At the end of the day we had a new location cleared for a take out and entry point to the mouth of the creek,

a changing room framed up for changing into dry clothes after a day paddling,

A large enough spot for a pavilion later to be equipped with picnic tables and a dry roof,

and a road leading to the site wide enough for a canoe trailer to back in.

It would have taken me several weeks to accomplish what this group did in a single day.

I went back after the water cleared to get these shots to show just how beautiful this site really is. Friends of Hurricane Creek volunteer Colin Williams enjoys the view for the first time.

 Looking downstream to the mouth of the creek.

Looking upstream to Watson's Bend.

 On the way out I couldn't resist the sunset over Spradling Bottoms.
Thank you to the 2015/16 University of Alabama "Outdoor Action" group for a great job again. It was great seeing older students who were returning and the many new faces who came to Hurricane Creek for the first time. The smiles and glowing comments sure made my day!