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Turkey Creek celebrates the Darter Festival, unveils new pavilion

The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in north Jefferson County attracts thousands of people from neighboring localities annually and from as far away as Europe and South America. The preserve in Pinson is home to three endangered species of fish: vermilion, watercress and rush darters. It is the only place on Earth where you will find the vermilion darter.

While visitors flock to the preserve to enjoy its scenic swimming hole and hiking and biking trails, there are also opportunities at the site to learn about how to protect Turkey Creek and its rare and important habitats.

And, this coming weekend in Birmingham, there’s an opportunity to help support the nature preserve while safely enjoying live music, food and libations at the annual Darter Festival.

This spring, a pavilion was built at the nature preserve, surrounded by stunning beauty. The nature preserve was established through a partnership between Alabama’s Forever Wild Program and the nonprofit Freshwater Land Trust and is co-managed by the Southern Environmental Center.

“We are now able to accommodate nearly 140 schoolchildren at a time at the multipurpose teaching pavilion,” said Roald Hazelhoff, director of the nonprofit Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham-Southern College. “We are excited that the event space includes a bathroom, storage space and catering area.

“Turkey Creek is a nonprofit organization and funding is needed for security, maintenance and educational programs,” Hazelhoff said. “The annual Darter Festival will help bring awareness to the public about the endangered species. The proceeds will go to protecting Turkey Creek and keeping the doors open for the general public.”

This year’s eighth annual Darter Festival is Sunday, May 23, outdoors at Avondale Brewery from noon to 5 p.m. There will be a Darter Dance performance by Birmingham preschoolers, live music, beer, food and socially distanced family fun to support educational programs at the nature preserve. Live performers are AJ Beavers from noon to 1 p.m., Dead Fingers from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and Early James from 3 to 4 p.m. The Avondale Burger Co. and Little London food trucks will be on-site. Guests will also get to try Avondale Brewery’s seasonal Darter Ale and, for the first time ever, people can take home Darter Ale in a limited-release, vermilion darter six-pack.  Advance general admission tickets are $10, and advance VIP tickets, which include food, drinks and prime seating, are $50. Tickets at the door will be $15 for general admission and $60 for VIP. Donations are also welcome.

Alabama Power, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are among the supporters of Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, and have partnered with the Southern Environmental Center to help restore portions of the banks along Turkey Creek and remove invasive, non-native plants. The improvements are supported through the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant Program.

To learn more about educational programs and workshops at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, click here. Follow this link for directions. For general information, email turkeycreekedu@gmail.com or visit turkeycreeknp.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)