JeffCo H20: A Litter Free State of Mind

trashblows_trailer_updated(2)   Keep America Beautiful was created in 1953 to address an increase in littering that coincided with the construction of the interstate system and the growing popularity of disposable containers. Local ordinances, national ad campaigns, and community cleanup efforts soon followed. Over the ensuing decades, the anti-litter movement grew to include other elements such as municipal recycling programs and the push for more sustainable products. But in spite of the tears shed by Iron Eyes Cody, the litter problem in the US has not gone away. Its effects on our communities range from diminished quality of life and safety concerns to neighborhood blight and reduced economic growth.

So . . . what is considered litter, what items are the most littered, where does litter occur, and who litters? The most common definition of litter is solid waste of any type put where it does not belong. (Some people still argue that if something is biodegradable, like gum, it does not count as litter.) Cigarette butts are the most littered items, followed by bottles, cans, fast food packaging and plastic shopping bags. Roadways, transition points such as entrances to buildings, outdoor recreational areas, and shopping centers are the most common locations for littering. People under 30 are the most likely age group to litter. More than 80% of littering is intentional. There’s no doubt that litter is unsightly, but it also has environmental consequences.  Wind, rain, traffic, and animals can carry litter to gutters, ditches and storm drains where it is carried untreated to waterways. According to Keep America Beautiful, 80% of US waterways are littered with trash that was first dropped on land. Even worse, hazardous materials which are illegally dumped can leach into water sources, contaminate soil and pollute the air.

As with any human behavior, there is a psychological aspect to littering. Not feeling a sense of ownership for an area followed by the belief that someone else will pick it up are the most common reasons that people litter. What appears to be socially acceptable is another factor in human behavior. When an area is littered, it has an almost magnetic effect. Since “everyone else is doing it”, litter attracts more litter. But a funny thing happens when an area is extremely clean . . . littering appears to be unacceptable, and the incidence of littering is greatly reduced.

One way to encourage people to take ownership of their community and improve its cleanliness is to get them involved in the process. This past spring, Storm Water Management staff promoted and facilitated roadside cleanups in 23 unincorporated and 14 incorporated Jefferson County areas in conjunction with the statewide People Against a Littered State (PALS) Spring Cleanup. This spring, a total of 1,469 volunteers picked up more than 58 tons of roadside litter. To support the roadway cleanup efforts in unincorporated communities, the Jefferson County Commission approved funding to purchase gloves, bags, water, and safety t-shirts. The Sheriff’s Office provided traffic control for 714 volunteers who picked up 40 tons of litter in unincorporated areas. Roads and Transportation Department crews coordinated and properly disposed of the collected roadway litter.

You can make littering unacceptable in your community. Participate in (or even initiate!) a roadside cleanup in 2015. Call 325.8741 to learn more.

What’s Happening? 

Don’t miss the chance to enjoy the July Brown Bag Series seminars at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The seminars are free, no registration is required, and light refreshments are provided. Call 325.8741 for more details.

Upcoming seminars include:

A Change of Scenery – July 9, Birmingham Botanical Gardens – 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Auditorium) Discover how to make your landscape fit your current lifestyle, physical needs and desires. Instructors: Daniel and Andrew McCurry

GRANDScapes: Multigenerational Gardening – July 23, Birmingham Botanical Gardens – 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Auditorium) Kindle the imagination of the (grand) kids in your life by creating fairy gardens, worm habitats, and other play inspiring features. Instructor: Vasha Rosenblum

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Greene Cemetery

In this month’s article, we will dig deeper (no pun intended) into a local cemetery with a list of residents that reads like a Who’s Who of the early pioneers of Jefferson County. The Green[e]‘s Station cemetery (also called ” Green[e] family cemetery, Green[e]-Massey cemetery, or the Smith’s Chapel cemetery) is located on Kent Road near to the main campus of Jefferson State Community College on AL highway 79 between Tarrant and Pinson. The cemetery is adjacent to the site of, but was not affiliated with the Smith’s Chapel Methodist Church on the old Huntsville Road. The cemetery is of singular historical import to those of us living today in Pinson Valley. The area began to be settled between 1817-1818 and many of the area’s early pioneers (and a minimum of seven slaves) are buried in the cemetery.

Settlers began coming into the area by wagon train, ox-cart, Indian-drags, on foot or horseback and staked out homesteads for themselves and their families. The plantations and farms of early pioneers stretched from one end of Pinson Valley to the other, bordered by Tarrant on one end and Pinson on the other. The area also stretched from Trussville and Roebuck to New Castle and Springdale.

The city of Tarrant as we know it today was not incorporated until 1918. Named for Rev. Benjamin Tarrant, the town grew up around the National Cast Iron Pipe Company and related companies. However, the settlement was much older. Travelers on the Huntsville Road in about 1817 often stopped at an area known as the Big Spring to rest and recharge on their way further into Alabama. While many moved on, others stayed and built a community, originally called Green[e]‘s, or Green[e]‘s Station. Brothers George Livingston Green[e]and Robert Hardy Green[e] both built large plantations in the area. The Tarrant area was also sometimes known as Nabor’s Spring.

The cemetery is the final resting place of Zachariah Hagood, one of the earliest physicians in Jefferson County, who practiced from 1840 to 1856. Dr. Zachariah, as he was known, almost single-handedly populated the settlement in northeastern part of Jefferson County that would eventually bear his name. He came here with his wife and baby… However, the valley was soon teeming with life from the many sons and daughters, Zachariah had 21 children from three wives. Robert, son of Dr. Zachariah, built a store on a crossroads next to the Huntsville Road which, beginning in 1836, also functioned as the community’s first post office. The area quickly became known as Hagood’s Crossroads. However, horse traders settling in the area from Pinson, Tennessee came in around 1852, eventually outvoted the Hagood’s and renamed the town Mount Pinson which, in turn, was later shortened to Pinson..A more poignant burial is that of Thomas Haughey, a physician who owned land in the area. Serving as a Republican US Congressman in the years following the Civil War, Haughey was assassinated in Courtland, AL while making a speech in 1869.

The cemetery started as a family burial place for the Green[e] family, who had significant land holdings in the area. The oldest known burial is reflected on a stone carved in 1829. Two of the oldest known burials are that of Goldsmith Whitehouse Hewitt (a veteran of the American Revolution), who died in 1846 and George Nash who died in 1852, the father of Zachariah Hagood’s first wife, Nancy Nash. Also buried there are John and Margaret Erwin, parents of Zachariah’s second and third wives, Nancy and Mary Ann Erwin. Families represented in cemetery include Greene, Hagood, Erwin, Massey, Reed, Reid, Marshall, Nash, and Hewitt.

Registered as an Alabama Historic Cemetery on January 20, 2004, the cemetery is likely older than Alabama statehood. However, the years have not been kind to this venerable old resting place… In its current state, it is horribly overgrown, with numerous sunken graves and vandalized gravestones.

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This hallowed place of rest for our ancestors deserves better than it has received. It falls to the generations living today to give the cemetery its due, if for no other reason than a show of respect for this burial ground, and especially in gratitude for the stalwart pioneers who risked everything to settle what is now known as Pinson Valley.

This article is intended to provide accurate historical information to a general audience. Material contained herein is gathered from reputable online and traditional sources, but unless otherwise noted, is not the result of original scholarship or research by the author.

-E. E. (Skip) Campbell, Ph.D.

Skip Campbell retired from UPS in early 2012 after 38 years as a senior manager, working in numerous locations in the United States and abroad, with primary responsibilities in operations and industrial engineering. He received his BS degree in Applied Science and Operations Analysis from the University of Alabama and holds Master’s degrees in Engineering Management, Quality and Management,. Skip holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development, with concentrations in Organizational Theory and Macroergonomics. Skip is a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and sits on the Board of Visitors for the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama. Since retiring, Skip serves as an Adjunct Professor with the College of Continuing Studies (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at the University of Alabama and focuses his academic research efforts on the area of pre-20th century Alabama history. Skip belongs to a number of historical and cemetery preservation associations. He and his wife Denise have 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren.

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JeffCo H20: Less Effort, More Impact – It’s Mulch Better!

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Summer turf growing season has arrived!  It’s time to tune up the lawnmower and get ready for that chore of cutting the grass. If you are like many homeowners, you are not looking forward to all that mowing, bagging, and other work involved in summer lawn care.   However, there is a way to skip the bagging step and actually improve your lawn while saving time, reducing cost, and making the most of a free resource.

For starters, bagged grass clippings account for 20 – 30 percent of residential waste hauled away to landfills during the summer months, even though clippings are 100 percent recyclable and contain valuable nutrients. According to research done by the Oregon State University Extension Service, you can reduce your fertilizer use by as much as one half by regularly mowing your lawn and allowing the grass clippings to remain on the lawn.  Grass clippings contain nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and other nutrients which are released into the soil as the clippings decompose, making clippings an excellent organic source of fertilizer for your lawn. The clippings also encourage earthworms and microorganisms to live in the soil, further enriching it.  Grass clippings bring another benefit – they help retain soil moisture, thereby reducing watering amount and frequency.

If you want to try keeping grass clippings on your yard this summer, there are a few things to keep in mind.  Using a mulching lawnmower is best because it is designed to chop mowed grass into very small particles and evenly distribute the clippings back onto the lawn.  Setting the lawnmower blade at the correct height for your type of turf and cutting the grass frequently enough so that no more than 1/3 of the total plant height is removed at any one time will provide the best results.  Mowing about once a week during the growing season is generally about right.  Plus, the job goes faster when the lawn only needs a light once-over.  Infrequent mowing can create its own issues, including big heavy clumps of clippings that can smother the lawn and cause thatch buildup.

With a little planning, keeping grass clippings on your lawn can be a win-win for both you and your turf.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741
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Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Neighbors Part 2

The second church that we will discuss from the early days of Tarrant was the Bethel Methodist Church, established between 1818 and 1820 by Methodist “Circuit Rider”, Rev. Ebenezer Hearn. Between 1817 and 1818, Rev. James Tarrant (a veteran of the American Revolution) traveled from South Carolina to Alabama with his family, including son Benjamin (a veteran of the War of 1812), and Benjamin’s wife, Morning, and their two children. Travelers into the Tarrant area often stopped at a large campground near to what was called the Big Spring on Five Mile Creek. It was popular because there was fresh water to drink and clothes could be washed. Rev. Tarrant had been sent by the Methodist Bishop in Nashville to establish a Methodist church in the area. James eventually moved on and built the Bethlehem Methodist Church, near Hueytown, with his slave, Adam, in 1818. Benjamin and his family, however, purchased property in the Tarrant area and maintained his home there until he died in 1874. Benjamin made his living both through farming and as a local politician. Benjamin also had a well-deserved reputation for hard living and was known to be a heavy drinker and gambler. However, in 1842, Benjamin changed his ways and was ordained as a Methodist minister. He later became active at Bethel Church where he was an evangelist for the next 30 years. Contrary to popular opinion, Tarrant was named for Benjamin Tarrant and NOT for his ancestor, Felix. Virtually all of the Tarrant family trace their lineage from Judge Leonard Tarrant who fought with Andrew Jackson at Horseshoe Bend. (There is a well-known 1814 hand-drawn map of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, drawn for Captain Leonard Tarrant).

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Bethlehem United Methodist from Hueytown Historical Society

Northeastern Jefferson County paid a significant role in the Civil War. Bethel Church was used as a gathering spot for rebel soldiers from Tarrant who were members of Company C, 19th Alabama infantry, the Jefferson County unit originating “from Hagood’s Crossroads [Pinson]… and included the sons of all the planters for miles around”. The “Reminiscences of Julius C. Greene” note that the militia mustered once a year at Massey Springs on the Huntsville Trail [Pinson Valley Parkway and Valleycrest Road]. People from all over the county came and stayed a week. The young men would drill; the old men talked crops and politics; the young women cooked and played games; the old women would knit and gossip. There would be a dance every night, an old-fashioned square dance. Some old negro slaves, with wing collar, long-tailed coat, and pants as tight as their skin would call the dance while the negro fiddlers played “Cotton Eye Joe,” “Turkey in the Straw,” “The Devil’s Dream,” and other old time pieces”.

The officers of the militia were: General John Massey, Major Robert H. Green, Captain A. J. Tarrant, Lieutenant John Ayers, Second Lieutenant George Barton, and Top Sergeant Robert N. Martin. Because of its close association with the rebel cause, Bethel Church was burned in 1865 by Wilson’s Raiders during the same sweep in which Hanby’s Forge was destroyed and the University of Alabama was burned.

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Union General James H. Wilson

Tarrant had its share of racial strife during the Civil War and Reconstruction. There is a reference to carpetbaggers wanting the blacks to kill all the whites between “Massey’s Springs and Hagood’s Crossroads” and yet another about arresting “every man from Hagood’s Crossroads to Five Mile Creek”. John Massey was one of the largest slave owners in Jefferson County. In the 1860 census he owned over 60 slaves. Greene mentions that “George L. Greene settled at what is now Tarrant and Major Robert H. Greene at what is now the Munger farm, six miles above Tarrant”.(Yankees camped on the farm when they came through the area). It is from this turmoil that the third Tarrant church emerged. Beginning as a prayer group of run-away slaves from Bibb County who joined with and others who worked on the plantation. First meeting in different houses each week, the group organized a brush arbor church [a rough-hewn, open-sided shelter constructed of vertical poles driven into the ground with additional long poles laid across the top as support for a roof of brush, cut branches or hay. Brush arbors were sometimes used by churches to protect worshipers from the weather during revival meetings] in 1891 known as Goins Chapel, for the former slave who eventually became a successful farmer and donated the land where the church would be located. Because “Chapel” was more often used by the Methodist church, the name was changed to Rushing Springs Baptist Church, a reference to a free-flowing spring near the church. Of special note is that the church had an early rule that required its Pastors to be able to read and write.

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Rushing Springs Baptist Church, Tarrant, Alabama

 

This article is intended to provide accurate historical information to a general audience. Material contained herein is gathered from reputable online and traditional sources, but unless otherwise noted, is not the result of original scholarship or research by the author.

-E. E. (Skip) Campbell, Ph.D.

Skip Campbell retired from UPS in early 2012 after 38 years as a senior manager, working in numerous locations in the United States and abroad, with primary responsibilities in operations and industrial engineering. He received his BS degree in Applied Science and Operations Analysis from the University of Alabama and holds Master’s degrees in Engineering Management, Quality and Management,. Skip holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development, with concentrations in Organizational Theory and Macroergonomics. Skip is a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and sits on the Board of Visitors for the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama. Since retiring, Skip serves as an Adjunct Professor with the College of Continuing Studies (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at the University of Alabama and focuses his academic research efforts on the area of pre-20th century Alabama history. Skip belongs to a number of historical and cemetery preservation associations. He and his wife Denise have 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren.

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JeffCo H2O: The High Cost of Thirsty Lawns

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We’ve all seen it before.  A sprinkler system turns on and vigorously waters the lawn – and the sidewalk – and the street.   Failing to properly adjust and time sprinkler systems can create a runoff cocktail of yard chemicals, soil, and pet waste, not to mention the amount of wasted water. It is estimated that thirsty turf consumes as much as 19.5 trillion gallons of water per year in the US.  Luckily there are some things that can be done to reduce the impact on natural resources.  Simply choosing the type of turf grass that is best suited for your yard and implementing more efficient irrigation practices can go a long way toward reducing runoff and conserving water.

Our love for lawns is rooted in history. The first managed residential grassy areas date back to the 1600s.  Today, lawns are the largest irrigated crop in the US.  According to Scienceline.org, irrigated turf occupies more than 40 million acres of land.  But our long devotion to expansive (and expensive) lawns may have to change in the future due to the effects of lingering droughts and declining groundwater reserves.  Already the popularity of alternative landscaping techniques to conserve resources is growing.  Creating an alternative landscape involves scaling back the turf in your yard to further reduce water consumption, runoff, and yard chemical use.  Here are a few ideas to begin a transition from turf to an alternative landscape:

Start with a plan!  First identify turf areas that serve a purpose, such as recreation.  These areas will remain unchanged.

Identify the hardest to maintain turf areas as the first candidates for removal.  Areas of turf that are the least functional, or do not serve a specific purpose, are next on the removal list.

As time and money allow, replace the turf areas you have identified with easy care groundcover, water efficient plants, or consider planting trees to create natural areas that will expand as the tree canopy grows.

Over time, your yard can become a lovely, low impact, sustainable retreat.

 What’s Happening?    

Do Dah Day – May 17 – This is a great opportunity to come on out and strut your pet’s stuff in Rhodes and Caldwell Parks!  This fun, family friendly event benefits local animal charities.  Jefferson County Storm Water Management staff plans to be there with a poo toss game (yes, you read that right) to teach proper pet waste disposal.  Visit http://www.dodahday.org to learn more.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

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Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Neighbors Part 1

In this month’s blog, we will talk about my old stomping grounds – our neighbors on highway 79 – from Tarrant (in the interest of full disclosure, I was an Inglenook kid, growing up just over the city limits into Birmingham) north on Pinson Valley Parkway including Robinwood, Ketona, Pawnee, the Jefferson State area and on out to Pinson. From a historical perspective, these areas have much more in common than they do differences.

Tarrant was incorporated as a city in 1918, a mill town owing its existence in large part to the starting of the National Cast Iron Pipe Company. One of the original share owners in NCIPC was Felix Tarrant, a dentist by training. Felix also founded the Tarrant Land Company which sold property in and around the Tarrant area.

Tarrent City Hall marker

However, Tarrant, as a settlement, was there much earlier. Originally called Green[e]‘s, or Nabors Springs, the Tarrant area was settled in much the same way as Pinson, by soldiers passing through the area to or from the Creek War or War of 1812. These soldiers later brought or sent for their families to join them in their new home.        After local Native American tribes were forced to cede their land after signing the treaty in 1814 with General Andrew Jackson, the US government opted to offset the costs of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812/Creek War by giving or selling the newly acquired lands to their veterans. Some land was given to those owed pensions due to military service, while some lands were sold for as little as $1.50 per acre.

Churches were almost always at the center, both literally and figuratively, at the center of most early settlements and, as such, were major influences. In Tarrant’s case, however, most denominations did not come onto the scene until after the town was incorporated. That being said, there were three early churches in Tarrant that deserve mentioning. The older of the two was the Smith’s Chapel Methodist Church, founded in the days before Alabama became a state in 1819. Originally next to James Cunningham’s house at the headwaters of the creek named for him, the building was later moved to the Huntsville Road (now Highway 79) close to where Kent Corporation now stands. The Greene family cemetery, where many of the area’s early pioneers (and a minimum of seven slaves) are buried, was next to the church. Families that are residents of the cemetery include Greene, Hagood, Erwin, Massey, Reed, Reid, Marshall, and Hewitt (including Goldsmith Whitehouse Hewitt, a veteran of the American Revolution). Extant church records for Smith Chapel include a copy of the General Rules of the United Methodist Societies (published for the Tract Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church), which admonishes its members to lead an exemplary life: “…by doing no harm; by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which most generally practiced”. These “rules for life” were part of a booklet where the church listed their members, attendance records (including notes on members who had been “expelled”), from 1842 until 1855. Copies of the original church records list members who owned slaves. In addition, it lists the slaves who were members of the church, and who their owners were. While not unexpected for the time, it is ironic that the Rules expressly forbid members of the Methodist church from “buying and selling of men, women, and children, with an intention to enslave them”.

This article is intended to provide accurate historical information to a general audience. Material contained herein is gathered from reputable online and traditional sources, but unless otherwise noted, is not the result of original scholarship or research by the author.

-E. E. (Skip) Campbell, Ph.D.

Skip Campbell retired from UPS in early 2012 after 38 years as a senior manager, working in numerous locations in the United States and abroad, with primary responsibilities in operations and industrial engineering. He received his BS degree in Applied Science and Operations Analysis from the University of Alabama and holds Master’s degrees in Engineering Management, Quality and Management,. Skip holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development, with concentrations in Organizational Theory and Macroergonomics. Skip is a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and sits on the Board of Visitors for the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama. Since retiring, Skip serves as an Adjunct Professor with the College of Continuing Studies (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at the University of Alabama and focuses his academic research efforts on the area of pre-20th century Alabama history. Skip belongs to a number of historical and cemetery preservation associations. He and his wife Denise have 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren.

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JeffCo H20:Rock, paper, garden

Spring is here and summer is just around the corner.  But along with warmer days come issues like bare patches, aggressive weeds, soggy spots, and soaring water bills.  Before using yard chemicals to control pesky plants, giving up on too wet or bare areas, or dragging out the hose to water the landscape yet again, you might want to consider some stormwater friendly low maintenance options.

Bare, sloped or otherwise hard to maintain areas easily can be transformed into a yard feature by installing a rock garden.  If you don’t already have appropriate rocks in your yard, you can purchase them at a home and garden store.  Properly installed, the rock will help reduce weeds, hold in moisture, and stabilize the soil.  When choosing plants for your rock garden, make sure that they are suited for our local conditions, and all have similar water and sun requirements.

Rock Garden

A rock garden can help tame a difficult to maintain area of your landscape

You already may have a weed control solution at your home and don’t know it.  Correctly applied, layers of newspaper are an inexpensive and easy way to prevent weeds.  Spread the newspaper about 10 sheets thick over the soil and overlap the layers by several inches to eliminate gaps.  Work newspaper around existing plants, or poke holes in the newspaper to install new plants.  Gently spray the newspapers with water until they are soaked, then lightly cover with leaves or other mulch to give a uniform appearance and help hold the sheets in place.  The newspaper will prevent weeds from springing up, help keep soil moist and cool during the growing season, and add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.

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Newspapers are an inexpensive, chemical free way to control weeds.

A rain garden is a great remedy for depressions (in your yard that is).  Placing water loving plants in low lying areas will help soak up the sogginess and create a beautiful and colorful area.  Installing a rain barrel to collect rainwater from your roof is an easy way to store up rainy day resources and reduce the cost of watering thirsty areas of your yard.  Rain barrels can be purchased at home and garden stores, ordered online, or homemade from food quality plastic drums.

What’s Happening?

Household Hazardous Waste Day – April 26 – Get ready to bring your HHW to McLendon Park (Legion Field), Birmingham from 8 to11 am.  Proper disposal will be available for paint, auto and alkaline batteries, used motor oil, electronics, ammunition, white goods, and paper shredding.  This event is free and open to all residents of Jefferson County.

Birmingham E-Cycling Day – May 8 Here’s another chance to properly dispose of your old, broken, or unwanted electronics.  Bring them to Linn Park from 8 am to 12 noon for recycling. Items accepted include personal computers, televisions, monitors, VCRs, stereos, DVD players, microwaves, phones, laptops, keyboards, mice, printers, ink/toner cartridges, remote controls, modems, projectors, and cameras. This event is free and open to citizens of the Birmingham Metro Area.   Call 787-5222 for more information.

Alabama Master Gardeners Helpline – Help for your home gardening challenges is just a phone call away!  Dial 1-877-252-GROW and select option 3 to speak to a master gardener volunteer serving the Birmingham area.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

 

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