UPDATE: Irondale-Ruffner Rd Trailhead

By order of preliminary injunction, the gate at the trailhead will remain open to allow for full access to the Preserve by the public until further order of the Court. The Court recognized that this trailhead has long served as one of the primary access points to the Mountain, including the point of entry for local emergency and fire departments.

The Court’s preliminary injunction also prohibits all cutting and removing of trees and other flora on the property; the disturbing of wildlife, trails, and waterways found on the property; and any other action that would harm the property or change its character.

The Court reached its decision after a two-day hearing where counsel for both sides took the testimony of four witnesses and entered more than a dozen exhibits. The Court determined that Ruffner has a reasonable legal claim to ownership of, or an easement over, the disputed property under Alabama law due its use by the public as a trailhead for more than 20 years.

The trailhead also lies on the former Birmingham Mineral Rail Line, the ownership of which is in dispute. Evidence of the historical significance of the Mineral Rail Line was submitted to the Court, as were deeds and related documents establishing that as early as the late 1800's the mineral rail line passed through the property, as well as the cities of Birmingham and Irondale and Jefferson County.

We would like to thank everyone who has followed this case since its beginning and supported Ruffner along the way. We truly could not do this without you!


We will update you in the coming weeks with any new developments.

Update: Irondale-Ruffner Rd. Trailhead

The Court concluded testimony late in the evening on March 10, 2016 as to the temporary restraining order entered on February 23. Ruffner seeks a preliminary injunction, as would effectively extend the terms set forth in that order until such time as the trial of the case is conducted.

The parties expect a ruling on the injunction next week.  For now, the temporary restraining order remains in full force and effect. Ruffner claims an easement by prescription of the subject trailhead, citing evidence of the public's use in accessing the Preserve for more than 20 years.

Should Ruffner succeed at trial, a permanent easement, or even ownership, is expected to result.

J&S International disputes Ruffner's claims, and seeks instead to terminate all future access to the Preserve from the trailhead through the erection of a large industrial facility with gated, razor wire fencing across the entirety of the established trailhead. The contested parcel, as has afforded access to the 1,000+ acres of public and preserve lands for decades, also encompasses the Historic Birmingham Mineral Rail Line, an easement for which had previously been in place since the mid-1800's.

We would like to thank Billy Weems and Elizabeth Blair for their support and invaluable counsel in this matter. Also, a very special thank you to The Honorable Judge Smitherman for hearing our case and her magnanimity in general. 

Stay tuned for more updates. 

Conservation Design Manager, Jon Woolley, featured in UAB Magazine

Thanks to Charles Buchanan and UAB Magazine for the wonderful piece on our multi-talented Conservation Design Manager, Jon Woolley. Jon is truly passionate about the natural world and ecology, and works every day to connect others with the wonders of our plant and animal life. We are so glad to have him and his artistry on the Ruffner Mountain team! Read the full article on the UAB Magazine website. 

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 (ruffnermountain.org/support); 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.

Sincerely,

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

https://ruffnermountain.org/calendar

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!