Irondale Trailhead Meetings: What We Discussed

Overall, Ruffner was extremely pleased with the turnout at both the Nature Center meeting yesterday afternoon, and the Irondale Town Hall meeting. We had a good turnout at both, and the tone overall was civil.

First Meeting: Nature Center
At the Ruffner Nature Center, which lasted from roughly 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm, our Executive Director, Carlee Sanford, basically reiterated the main talking points of the post above:

  1. The history of the plot of land itself, Ruffner’s communications with Walter Energy and subsequently with J&S Construction. We urge you to re-read paragraphs two and three of the original post for this summary.

  2. Ruffner has contact Matthew Coffing of CSX regarding Ruffner’s access to the Mineral Railroad line. This rail line runs the entire length of the mountain, from its southwestern tip in Gate City to Roebuck Springs, running along the southern portion of the mountain at its base (essentially parallel to Ruffner Road).

  3. This rail line is instrumental in Ruffner’s future plans for the trail system on the mountain, as well as connecting disparate regions of the mountain to hopefully one day form an integrated whole--a single ecosystem--accessible to the public (more or less).

  4. What can you do to help? Become a Ruffner Member (; call, write, or email the City of Irondale and the City of Birmingham to express your concern over the closure of this treasured Ruffner trailhead!


Second Meeting: Town Hall
Last night's standing room only town hall meeting with Irondale mayor Charles Moore was well attended. We were happy to see a large number of the Ruffner Mt. meeting attendees in the audience!  

The subject of Ruffner Mountain came up multiple times, first with Beth Stewart, Director of the Cahaba River Society. Beth expressed her hope that Irondale's natural areas--Cahaba River, Ruffner Mountain, and more--would be a priority for the future of the City. Ruffner Mountain's Director, Carlee Sanford, followed up with two questions regarding the Mayor's perception on the financial impact Ruffner Mountain and the Cahaba River has on Irondale's economy. The mayor responded that he believes they provide an indirect, positive impact on the local economy.

A little over two years ago the Regional Planning Commission was hired to create a master plan for the City of Irondale. Ruffner's relationship with Irondale was brought up again when it was asked if Irondale adopted the commission's plan and if it was being followed in terms of green space, neighborhood connectivity, and zoning. Both a councilor and the mayor simply replied that "yes," the plan was adopted and was being followed. This exchange opened the floor for more questions and comments from the audience regarding the situation with the current Irondale trailhead.

Residents expressed appreciation for the location of the current trailhead, many stating that they had moved to the area specifically because of this access point to the mountain. Many reflected on their long-time use of the trailhead and their memories of family outings at Ruffner and the significance of this trailhead to them.   

Zoning and the proximity of an industrial business to this trailhead, the adjacent ball fields, and residential housing was mentioned and echoed by many in attendance. Further, it was brought up that it was this proximity posed a dangerous situation for families and children particularly with the added tractor trailer traffic in this location.

Overall, the meeting was very positive, with valid concerns expressed to the mayor and council persons in the room.

Ruffner Mountain appreciates mayor Charles Moore for his openness in hosting a townhall meeting and addressing the variety of topics brought up, and Ruffner particularly appreciates those in attendance for advocating for quality of life issues particularly in protecting rivers, green spaces and access to those areas, and acknowledging the positive financial impact both in desirability of home location and increased "indirect" impact these green spaces have on the on the local economy.

Thanks to all who came out to these invaluable meetings!


Irondale Trailhead Closure

It is with a heavy heart that we share this news with you. As of this week, if you access Ruffner Mountain via the old Irondale Trailhead, you will be doing so through private property. We wanted to be the first to inform you of this new development to prevent any confusion.

In January of 2016, Walter Energy auctioned off 5.65 acres located at 300 Ruffner Road, roughly the site of the Ruffner Road trailhead. It was then purchased by J&S International Inc. for $60,000. Prior to this sale, Ruffner Mountain had reached out, unsuccessfully, to Walter Energy to inquire whether the land could be donated to the Nature Preserve (the Ruffner Mountain Nature Coalition is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and had no money for purchase at that time). Fast forward to summer, and the City of Irondale Commercial Development Authority, made an offer of $80,000 for the aforementioned 5.65 acres in an effort to support Ruffner Mountain. For this we are immensely grateful. J&S International, a stone manufacturing company, then made a counteroffer to the Irondale CDA: one acre of land that encompasses the back entrance of Ruffner Preserve for $80,000. The counteroffer was not accepted. Financially speaking, purchasing one (1) acre for $80,000 would not only be fiscally irresponsible, it would be ecologically irresponsible, as well, resulting in light pollution and other disruptions of ecosystems crucial to the health of the mountain overall.

Just recently, during a phone conversation, Ruffner’s Executive Director, Carlee Sanford, asked if J&S International would accept $100,000 for the 5.65 acre parcel of land. They responded that the price stood at a previously established amount of $750,000 for the entire 5.65 acre parcel.

J&S International plans to install a fence and begin site prep on January 31st. While this trailhead will no longer be a legitimate Ruffner Mountain access point, you will still be able to enter the Preserve at our other Ruffner Road entrance, which leads to the Pipeline Trail and Wetlands. This situation is ongoing, so we will notify you of any new developments as soon as we hear of them.

Ruffner will continue its work of restoration and conservation on the mountain. For 20 years, the Irondale trailhead has stood as a symbol of this work and as a beloved gateway for countless visitors to the mountain. If you are among the many who used this trailhead and would like to support Ruffner, we will be holding an open house at the Nature Center on January 31, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, where you will have the chance to voice your concerns. As a non-profit, it is this support that we rely on in order to remain free and open to all, while protecting our lands and waterways. Let us continue together as partners in conservation and build a sustainable future for all. Thank you for your support.


The staff of Ruffner Mountain

Winter Programs at Ruffner

We’d be the first to admit Ruffner is not exactly the Chapel of Love when it comes to weddings. You’ve got to work to your strengths, right? That’s why we decided to utilize all of our resources to be Birmingham’s premier resource for nature education.

Every day at Ruffner we work to raise awareness of the importance of the natural world, and our intimate connection to it. In this spirit, we are excited to bring you the Winter portion of our 2017 Programs Calendar. Our EcoArts, Citizen Science, and Volunteer Work Days give you the opportunity to learn more about the natural world while experiencing it first-hand. Through a deeper understanding of ecology, we will realize our vision of a future when the flora, fauna, and people of Birmingham coexist as members of a single healthy and sustainable habitat.

As we move into the new year, we will continue to do what we do best, creating and restoring native habitats, while working to make your Ruffner experience better than ever. Stay tuned for our full 2017 Programs Calendar, and till then, we hope to see you at one of our many upcoming programs!

January 28 - Guided Hike: Lichen & Moss

February 4 - Music with Ms. Meg
February 11 - Guided Hike: Mining History
February 17 - 20 - Ruffner & Birmingham Audubon Present: The Great Backyard Bird Count
February 18 - Community Work Day
February 24 - 25 - Citizen Science: Frogwatch USA

March 4 - Music with Ms. Meg
March 18 - Community Work Day: Wetlands
March 25 - Pollinator Workshop

We'll see you on the Mountain!

Thanks to Avondale Brewery and the JCBA!

We are so thankful that we had the chance to take part in the Honey Bee*r Project at Avondale Brewery last fall! The Brewery made a special release Farmhouse Honey Ale using 120 pounds of local wildflower honey, the proceeds of which went to local parks and green-spaces that are investing in pollinator-friendly gardens. Thanks to Avondale Brewery and the Jefferson Co. Beekeepers Association for helping save our pollinators!

Ruffner Founders Visit the Nature Center!

This weekend Kathy Stiles Freeland, Ruffner's first Executive Director, came by the Nature Center for a visit along with Betty Kimbrell and her two daughters. Betty's husband, Billie Joe, actually painted the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center sign hanging behind them in this photo; it is one of our most treasured relics at Ruffner. If it hadn't been for them, Ruffner would certainly not be what it is today. We are beyond grateful for them and that they took the time to visit us this weekend. Kathy was one of the founders of Birmingham's nature movement, and we try every day to advance the understanding of ecology and carry on the work of conservation in her spirit. It is an honor to follow in her footsteps.

Connect with your community. Join one of the largest urban nature preserves in the country, or you can support one of the many amazing organizations below through donation and membership. Let's preserve our mountains, waterways, and green spaces together. 

Red Mountain Park:

Railroad Park:

Vulcan Park:

Birmingham Botanical Gardens:


Cahaba Riverkeeper:

Coosa Riverkeeper:

Turkey Creek:

Cahaba River Society:

Black Warrior Riverkeeper:

Village Creek Society:

Freshwater Land Trust:


Wild South:

Birmingham Audubon Society:

Fresh Air Family:

Alabama Wildlife Rehabilitation Center:

Jones Valley Teaching Farm:


Alabama Environmental Council:

There are so many ways to give back this holiday season





Are you a Ruffner regular? Do you know the Mountain like the back of your hand? How many times have you found yourself on a trail, in a valley, or atop a ridge, enjoying the simple thrill of being outside? Do you come here to walk your dog, to take photos, or to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the Mountain? Do you like tax write-offs? If the answer is yes, then it's time to become a Ruffner Member. 



Already a member? Maybe you simply value our rivers and streams, our plant and animal life, and want to see them preserved and protected for generations to come. Well, this is the option for you. Make a one time donation, and support conservation at one of the largest non-profit urban nature preserves in the country.