River an educational asset

There are many things to be thankful for in Shelby County.

Many of those things—a vibrant economy, great schools, capable leaders and sound infrastructure—are obvious, but others may not be at the forefront of our minds.

The Cahaba River system and the educational opportunities it offers are among those things to be grateful for.

Recently, I talked with Spain Park High School students and their environmental science instructor about tours of the river system they took during the fall.

The trips included seining the river for fish and talking about the varieties, measuring water quality and discussing the role the river plays in the region, and searching for macrovertebrates whose presence are indicative of the ecosystem’s health.

Instructor Jean Gillespie said students are usually surprised by the wildlife supported by a river that is located in a relatively urbanized part of the state.

“You’re really not that far from civilization, but it’s a big enough chunk of land that it can support all these species,” Gillespie said.

Randall C. Haddock with Cahaba River Society said such educational trips are typical for the organization every day during the spring, summer and fall months.

“We’re trying to make students aware that Alabama is a remarkable place in regards to the things that live in these rivers,” Haddock said. “We have many more of these species than most other places. I’m proud of it. It’s pretty special.”

It’s one thing for an environmental science instructor and a Cahaba River Society member to stress the river’s importance and the value of studying it, but after talking with SPHS students, it was obvious the trips made an impact on them.

Senior Emily Colpack said she thinks people should visit the area themselves.

“I wouldn’t have been so attached emotionally if I hadn’t gone and seen it myself,” Colpack said.

Stephen Dawkins is a Staff Writer for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 524 or by email at stephen.dawkins@shelbycountyreporter.com.