A Letter From Our Executive Director

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Dear friends of Ruffner,

Over the month of December, you will hear us talk about membership, a lot. While we’d prefer to be sharing stories about George the opossum, native plants, winter birds of Ruffner, Shades Creek Restoration, and conversations about our bats, I’d like to explain just what membership is all about, and what you get out of it. But first, let me tell you a story.

Two years ago, I accepted the position of Executive Director of Ruffner Mountain. Prior to working here, I’d used Ruffner Mountain in a way that is probably very similar to most of you: hiked the trails, read a book at the back porch, perused the Nature Center, walked my dog; I would take friends and family to the overlook, attend an event or two. Some months I visited weekly, then six months would pass without one visit to the preserve. During my interview, I was upfront. Other than dropping in a few dollars at the trailhead, I’d never really donated to Ruffner or to any of the other places that I frequented. I’d never filled out a membership form.

By the end of 2016, one year into the job, I’d signed up for membership at Red Mountain Park, the Cahaba River Society, Birmingham Botanical Gardens and of course, Ruffner Mountain.

Once I understood that my use and love of these places, while wonderful, was costing money (yes, they are free to visit, but my use was not free; it cost something), I immediately signed up. By joining through membership I could know that I was covering my personal use, and maybe that of someone that could not afford it.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s and early 2000’s Ruffner averaged over 1,000 members. Membership covered about 25% of the nonprofit’s operating budget. The 2010 opening of the new Nature Center and public pavilion brought more visitors, programs, and exhibits, yet membership decreased drastically. While wonderful, the new facilities and new people meant increased cost and more maintenance. By January of 2016 Ruffner had only 100 active members.

That very same year we launched our new membership format and end-of-the-year drive with a long term goal of 1,500 members. When we realized that Ruffner and its mission are the same as they were 30 years ago, with free programming, trails, a possum that makes everyone smile, a few more acres added, and a LEED Nature Center we knew that the next step was to reconnect with the communities surrounding the mountain, to rebuild that original community of Ruffner members.

This membership drive is direct for a reason. The green signs you see on the mountain may cause a twinge of guilt from time to time, but this is simply because we don’t want there to be any gray area when it comes to membership.

We receive a lot of questions about membership: what is it for, what do you get, and why should I pay? Membership. The term itself is misleading. In actuality, it is nothing more than a use fee.

Membership pays for the parking lot where you park, the water from the sinks, the trash cans that are emptied each week, toilets that are cleaned regularly, the camera at the entrance, the insurance for the land, and many other expenses. It pays for your use of this place, however you use it. We are not asking first time visitors to become members. We are asking each of you who visit and attend programs, who profess your love for Ruffner Mountain, Turkey Creek, Red Mountain, or any of the green spaces of the Magic City—if you have the means, now is the time to become a member.

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

Carlee Sanford

Executive Director

 

Thanksgiving Hours

The Nature Center will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and on Friday, November 24th. However, our trails are open from dawn until dusk and we have public restrooms, trail maps and water fountains on the back porch pavilion. 

In the meantime, enjoy this video of our beloved opossum George eating his opossum friendly "pumpkin pie." 

 

Thank you, Birmingham

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Thank you to everyone who came out to Ruffner's 40th anniversary celebration! It is a wonderful feeling being a part of not only The Magic City, but each of the communities that surround the mountain— East Lake, Irondale, and Roebuck Springs included. We work every day to promote community interconnection through ecology, so it our hope that events like today help bring the people of Birmingham just a little closer together. Because one thing we can all gather around, no matter your background, culture, beliefs, or status, is the natural world and its beauty. Thank you, Birmingham, for your Magic.

Special thanks to our sponsors: Coca-Cola, Alabama Power, Bud's Best, Golden Flake, Lloyd & Hogan, and Seasick Records. Photos by Bob Farley.

Ruffner Mine #3 Bats 05012017
Ruffner Mine #3 Bats 05012017
Ruffner Mine #3 Bats 05012017
Ruffner Mine #3 Bats 05012017
Ruffner Mine #3 Bats 05012017
Ruffner Mine #3 Bats 05012017

Ruffner Turns 40: The Guided Hike Line-up

If you haven’t already made plans to join us for our 40th Anniversary celebration on Saturday, October 21st from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM, perhaps these four, unique guided hikes will entice you—that’s right, we have a little something for everyone lined up.

Please note all hikes are on “first come first served” basis and hikes will fill up fast!

Here is the guided hike schedule:

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1. Where: Ruffner Ballfield Entrance

When: 8:00 am

Who/What: Tom Spencer, Nature Hike. Tom covers it all—geology, history, and ecology. The route will be the Ridge and Valley loop, a vigorous 3.5 mile hike from the base of Ruffner Mountain to its highest elevation at Sloss Peak. A great hike for fall colors, with mining ruins, and mountaintop views to boot. Thomas Spencer is the author of Five Star Trails: Birmingham, a guide to hiking in Birmingham and the surrounding region. Born in Birmingham, Thomas Spencer grew up hiking and camping in his native state, and for almost two decades he crisscrossed Alabama as a reporter for the Anniston Star, The Birmingham Weekly, and The Birmingham News, specializing in coverage of the outdoors and the environment.  

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Spencer is now the senior research associate at the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama based at Samford University. 

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2. Where: Ruffner Mountain Nature Center

When: 10:00 am

Who/What: Gary Bostany, Industrial History Hike. Gary will lead a hike focused on mining history. He has led hikes to the old mine sites as a volunteer educational docent for the last ten years, while explaining the history of the area. Gary Bostany is a volunteer educational docent at Vulcan Park and Museum, and a history buff regarding Birmingham’s early days of the making of iron and steel.

 

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3. Where: Ruffner Mountain Nature Center

When: 1:30 pm

Who/What: Peter Van Zandt, Natural History Hike. Peter Van Zandt will lead a hike on finding often overlooked natural history. Pete VanZandt is an evolutionary ecologist who studies how plants and insects interact with each other. He teaches field botany, ecology, and evolutionary ecology at Birmingham-Southern College.

 

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4. Where: Ruffner Ballfield Entrance

When: 1:30 pm

Who/What: Michelle Reynolds - Nature Hike - Michelle Reynolds is a Native Plant enthusiast and Habitat Gardener from Birmingham, AL. Michelle believes that enthusiasm is her super power. She is the author of many garden profiles, how-to articles for publications, leads field trips, and makes nature inspired art weaving in stories about ecology and biodiversity.  

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October 21st, Ruffner Turns 40!

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*Presented by the Ruffner Mountain YP Board*

On October 21, Ruffner will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of Ruffner Mountain Nature Coalition. Yes, it really has been four decades! We can’t believe it either.

Ruffner was founded in 1977 when a small group of dedicated individuals decided to save a mountain threatened by deforestation and development. This was the start of the modern nature movement as we know it today in Birmingham.

Over the years, Ruffner has grown from a few acres to more than 1,000, making it one of the largest privately held, urban nature preserves in the country. Today, it is the urban forest of the Magic City.

Join us on Saturday, October 21st at Ruffner Mountain for

-Yoga from 8am - 9am

-Your favorite records spun by Seasick Records

-Guided Nature Hikes and Mining History Hikes

-Eco-arts activities for all ages

-Plus a good ol’ fashioned cookout (or grill out, or barbeque, or get-down), sponsored by Alabama Power, Bud’s Best, Coca-Cola, Lloyd and Hogan and Golden Flake! 

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s sure to be a great time.

Additional activities and events planned. Check back later for more details!