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Dear Freshwater Land Trust friends:

Over the last three years as Executive Director of Freshwater Land Trust (FLT), I am so proud of our numerous accomplishments. FLT continues to grow and perform meaningful work throughout Central Alabama, and I want to share some of our major achievements from the past year with you.

First and foremost, our board of directors, junior board, staff, partners, and supporters are the backbone of our organization. Their commitment to FLT and its mission is the reason we are able to continue to expand our services to reach more communities, residents, habitats, and species. Many thanks to all who make our work possible.

In 2021, we proudly celebrated our organization’s 25th anniversary. During the year and despite the pandemic, we protected over 400 acres of high-value conservation property, reaching the milestone of conserving over 8,000 acres in total. Last year alone, we removed over 7,700 pounds of litter from waterways throughout Jefferson County via Project Litter Gitter, and we engaged volunteers in over 600 hours of service opportunities, including workdays to enhance endangered species habitat. In addition to unveiling our exciting new Red Rock Trail System (RRTS) logo, our RRTS in Jefferson County was prominently featured in Innovate Alabama’s report by The Hoover Institution at Stanford University, holding RRTS up as an exemplar of what the Hoover Institution recommends Alabama should strive to accomplish.

In 2022, we continue to make great strides with our stewardship, conservation, and trail-building efforts. So far this year, we have already closed on three properties, including a 250+ acre parcel in the Locust Fork watershed, a critical area with significant conservation value. We completed a substantial stream bank stabilization project to enhance habitat for the endangered Vermilion Darter in Turkey Creek, and we officially opened the Moon River Canoe launch and parking lot in Irondale, to allow safe public access to the beautiful Cahaba River. We also hosted a BioBlitz on one of our Village Creek properties and documented an incredible 188 species of plants, animals, and fungi living there.
This summer, we will install our 12th litter gitter trash collection device and continue to add to the eight tons of trash we have already removed from our creeks and streams since Project Litter Gitter’s inception in December 2019. Also, this year’s summer concert fundraiser on August 26th featuring Greensky Bluegrass and The Sam Bush Band at Avondale Brewing Company is shaping up to be our biggest Land Aid ever.

Further, our RRTS continues its dynamic growth in anticipation of The World Games. Earlier this year, we officially opened the first segment of the Hugh Kaul Trail, connecting Railroad Park and the Rotary Trail to Avondale’s 41st Street. We also commissioned a 10,000 square foot mural to be painted along the trail, which is currently underway, as our gift to Birmingham for The World Games. The second segment of the Hugh Kaul Trail, which will continue from Avondale’s 41st Street and connect to historic Continental Gin, is under construction and will be open to the public by the end of this month. The entire Hugh Kaul Trail (a $2,000,000 FLT project) spans nearly two miles and is a critical component to our goal of ultimately connecting downtown Birmingham to Ruffner Mountain. As RRTS expands, we are working with the national active transportation company, Alta Planning + Design in Portland, Oregon, to update the trail system’s original master plan and identify the next seven priority trail projects. We have also rebranded RRTS to be more recognizable and accessible for all, which will include new signage, mapping, and wayfinding throughout the trail system.

As we venture further down the path of progress, we will continue serving our area by connecting people to the outdoors and contributing to the enhancement of our natural world. I am grateful to serve this impactful organization as its Executive Director, and I look forward to many more years of success for the benefit of our communities. I welcome your suggestions or ideas about how our organization can be more effective, so please feel free to be in touch with your thoughts. Thank you for your support and go enjoy Alabama’s great outdoors!


Rusha Smith
Executive Director
Freshwater Land Trust

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