Parks are key to ensuring the health of our environment because they play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems, providing clean water and clean air, and enabling conservation of natural resources.
NATIVE WILDFLOWERS + GRASSES
Turf grass lawns cover over 40 million acres in the United States, which is about 2% of its total continental land area. This makes turf grass the most common irrigated crop, covering more area than the next eight types of irrigated crops combined. To keep all that grass growing, 50 to 75% of the domestic water supply is used, adding up to over 20 trillion gallons a year. Lawns are also major sources of pollution from fertilizer and pesticide run-off—all for a type of landscape that doesn’t produce food or provide other critical economic benefits. - Lawn to Wildflowers
Our vision for the Altadena Valley Park is to create an ecosystem-rich, passive park that provides an expanse of recreational opportunities while not requiring constant landscape maintenance and upkeep. As opposed to turf lawns, which provide minimal ecological value, native grasses and wildflowers create habitats for pollinators and other species while requiring almost no maintenance.
In the coming year(s), Altadena Valley Park will become a site blooming with wildflower & native grass meadows-- Adding to the neighborhood's beauty, supporting pollinators, and providing year-round color with a variety of blooms occurring at different times throughout the year.
For more information on native seed mixes, visit the button below and read about our recommended Native Seed Provider.
WHAT ABOUT SNAKES?
One common concern we hear when discussing wildflower and native grass meadows is: 'Won't this attract more snakes?'
To answer this question:
Native grass and wildflower meadows do provide habitats for more than just pollinators-- including birds, bats, small rodents, deer, and, consequently, snakes. With this said, by creating a desirable habitat for these snakes, the snakes will avoid any undesirable living locations such as exposed trail and open recreation area.
So, the short answer is: The snakes will remain deep in the meadow grasses and are highly unmotivated to disturb your normal park activities and/or leave the meadow environment. Therefore, to avoid any unwanted snake encounters, avoid walking in the native grass and wildflower groupings. Instead, stick to the marked trails. We have designed all wildflower placements to be offset an appropriate distance from the main trail system, so as long as you're not marching into the tall grasses, the snakes are likely to remain there unbothered.
In addition to wildflower meadows, snakes also enjoy habitats alongside pond and river edges. Please keep in mind that this is their home first and exercise caution when approaching these environments. Making noise, including talking loudly, will help notify the snakes of your approach and reduces the likelihood that they will feel surprised or threatened by your presence.
Native plants are considered the best choice because of their abundance of nectar and pollen in addition to being low maintenance, generally pest free, drought tolerant, and able to control erosion. They are good sources of food and shelter for wildlife, and naturally beautiful.
- United States Department of Agriculture.
The Altadena Valley Park is a historic flood plain for the Cahaba River. Recognizing this, our park improvements will allow this flooding to occur in order to mitigate further flooding and flood damage downstream. In essence, our design intervention is not to prohibit this flooding, but to allow what naturally happens to take place. As a result, in events of flooding, the water will be dispersed throughout the park and filtered into the soil, rather than directed away, causing further water build-up downstream. This 'planned flooding' will contribute to the overall wellbeing of the surrounding neighborhoods and will enable nature to do what it does best.
THE BENEFITS OF NATURAL FLOODPLAINS
Floodplains provide numerous flood loss reduction benefits as a result of their unique natural functions.
From a physical standpoint, floodplains:
- Store and convey floodwaters
- Filter nutrients and pollutants out of runoff
- Reduce flood velocities
- Enhance quality of surface waters
- Moderate water temperature
From a biological perspective, floodplains:
-Enhance biological productivity
-Are a critical nursery habitat for fishes
-Create and enhance waterfowl habitat
-Are habitats for rare, threatened, or endangered species.
THE CAHABA LILY
One of the most iconic plants of the Cahaba River is the Cahaba lily, an aquatic flowering plant which grows only in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. A type of spiderlily belonging to the amaryllis family, the Cahaba lily is noted for the striking beauty of its three-inch-wide white flowers. The lily requires a very specialized habitat—swift-flowing water over rocks and lots of sun—and thus is restricted to shoal areas at or above the fall line.
THE CAHABA RIVER
The Cahaba River is Alabama’s longest remaining stretch of free-flowing river and a global treasure-trove of biological diversity. It is the primary drinking water source for one-fifth of the state’s people in the Birmingham metro area. Flowing from its headwaters northeast of Birmingham, AL until it reaches the Alabama River southwest of Selma, the Cahaba River is 194 miles long and drains an area of 1,870 square miles. The Cahaba River has more species than any river its size or larger in North America.