"Outdoor Action"

An outdoor-oriented service-learning experience for Honors and New College Freshmen

University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL

Conducted at the Perry Lakes Park/Barton's Beach

Cahaba River Nature Preserve

Marion, Perry County, Alabama

15-16 August, 2007

Thomas H. Wilson, Ph.D.
Judson College Biologist
Environmental Advisor
Perry Lakes Park Board

Fran Oneal, Ph.D.
Director, International Honors Program
University of Alabama
Outdoor Action
College students often conduct service-learning projects at Perry Lakes Park/Barton's Beach Preserve. The approximate 900 acres of Hatchery area with the adjacent Perry Lakes Park and the Barton's Beach Cahaba River Nature Preserve offers outstanding opportunities for nature studies. Perry Lakes Park and the Hatchery woods ecosystem is the only nature based recreational area provided to the county by the State of Alabama.

Thomas Wilson birding in woods above Hatchery Office

Please read the following account of Perry Lakes Park/Barton's Beach Perserve (including a study of the Park website) and then complete the learning assignments on the Learning Pages..

Outdoor Action Project Orientation Assignments:

The Park/Hatchery/Barton's Beach nature area with its mature canopy forest is very important to impoverished West Central Alabama. The opportunities for outdoor education and recreation in an unusual and rare hardwood habitat is a source of encouragement and pride for the local people.

Marion and Perry County people are counting on this hardwood forest park system to be a significant part of the growing ecotourism industry of the area. People will come and see the beautiful fall colors of the hardwoods presented by the giant trees in our wonderful woods.
The Hatchery environment contains mature hardwoods and giant native loblolly pines along with many other interesting trees. The understory has woodland plants that are not commonly seen in cutover areas.
Decaying log in woods above Hatchery Office

The mature forest canopy creates a complete ecosystem. The rich organic matter of the forest floor provides a place for unusual and brightly collored fungi and parasitic plants. The carbon cycle is well demonstrated by the events taken place on this rotten log.

The view of the floodplain hardwood forest is exceptional on the small "mountain" above the Hatchery Office. The
The many open areas within the forest environment along with the adjacent farm land create a vigorous wildlife habitat for deer and other forest animals. Deer hunters maintain large food plots along the forest edge of the property. Several miles of wide fire lanes and a gravel road wind through out the Park and property. Recent hurricanes and several tornadoes have felled many large trees and further opend the canopy for wildlife.
Birding is exceptional in the area because of the hatchery ponds, the oxbow swamps and the mature tree canopy. A pair of eagles nests in the tall pines beside the hatchery ponds.
An official bird list of 207 species from this area reflects the quality of the woods for the sport of birding. A 100 ft tall birding tower opened in 2006.

The Park's well-designed system of trails and the riverene environment of the Cahaba River add access and diversity to the ecosystem.
It is critical that this mature tree canopy receive legal protection that would prevent any harvesting of timber or alteration of the forests. A type of protection that would shelter it as a type of wilderness where trees are allowed to mature, die, and fall to the earth. A type of protection that would prevent the logging or collecting of trees blown to the ground by storms.

This ecosystem is a precious part of our natural heritage and it must be respected as a museum of nature...a place to learn, admire, and a place to be part of the world of trees, birds, and other creatures of the wild.

The wonderful woods and flora of the Hatchry Woods, Perry Lakes Park and Barton's Beach Preserve can be seen on their web sites:


For more information, contact:
Dr. Thomas Wilson
email: wils5789@bellsouth.net