Walker County has been funded for a number of items by the Cawaco Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Council just in the past couple of years, with local Fiscal 2019 grant awards announced this month totaling $40,544.
Fire departments in need of equipment upgrades have always received close attention by Cawaco, officials said. Last year in Walker County, Nauvoo Volunteer Fire Department got $3,652 for equipment upgrades for adequate water to handle larger fires, while Cordova got $4,688 for 12 pagers.
Other projects last year included $5,000 each for renovations at the Eldridge Community Center, paving the Parrish walking track, expansion work at the Hope House Kitchen used for the homeless, conservation education programs for the Walker County Soil and Water Conservation District and for Backyard Blessings' Friday backpack food program helping needy children in area schools.
The new Fiscal 2019 funding includes another $5,000 for Backyard Blessings to continue the Friday backpack food program. Other projects just announced this month include awarding:
• $5,000 to the Town of Kansas to refurnish the Kansas Veterans Park by building two sets of bleachers for the ballpark. The project also calls for replacing children's swing sets and playground equipment, paint buildings and renovate bathrooms.
• $2,000 to the Thatch Volunteer Fire Department to provide communications equipment for emergency call response.
• $4,720 to Walker County Community Action Agency to provide transportation to take youth to a summer SKY youth program.
• $4,180 to Saragossa Volunteer Fire Department to purchase two to four gas detectors with components to mount to trucks, three water/foam can fire extinguishers and a portable rechargeable scene light.
• $4,000 to the City of Cordova to install an electronic sign for a kayak and canoe launch to increase safety awareness.
• $5,000 to the Walker County Soil and Water Conservation District for conservation education to students and landowners in Walker County and the surrounding area. "During FY2017, we reached 3,083 attendees through our workshops, career days and educational programs. We also had 22,917 Facebook views," the district said.
• $2,394.86 to The Arc of Walker County for a Feathered Friends program based on Project FeederWatch from Cornell University. Participants with intellectual and developmental disabilities will learn about bird characteristics, identifying species and their songs, feeding, habits and habitats of birds.
• $4,000 to the Walker County Humane Society for humane traps and dart net guns.
• $4,250 for the Walker County Firefighters Association for proper identification badges for Walker County first responders.
Cawaco board member Paul Kennedy, who is also executive director for the Walker Area Community Foundation, said Monday Cawaco is about to undertake within the next six months a new unique statewide agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be a technical and financial provider for them.
"I don't think there is another RC&D council in the state that has any agreement like that," he said.
Kellie Johnston, the executive director for Cawaco, said in Jasper Monday the agency is interested in endangered species, and some darters may have trouble traveling upstream to their spawning grounds.
"When you have a road crossing, sometimes you have a culvert put in higher than the stream bed, so the little fish is disconnected from its habitat. So Fish and Wildlife would like to work with county commissions to replace culverts and deal with fish passage issues," she said.
Kennedy said Fish and Wildlife has hired individuals to site assessments and coming up with priority lists based on where these species exist. "U.S. Fish and Wildlife is providing the financial resources for someone like a county commission to put in a new culvert, but to just put it in better than the old culvert," he said.
In addition, Cawaco received a grant from ADECA for a trailer that can be borrowed to assist groups in developing and maintaining recreation trail, with Charles Yeager at the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve managing it. It also works with the Alabama Rivers and Streams Network with other agencies and entities to coordinate field work and studies to restore imperiled aquatic species through scientific actions and to support the Alabama Water Policy initiative.
Cawaco was also one of the founding members of the Your Town Alabama community design and planning workshop for municipal and community leaders, with the next session expected to take place next April. The 2.5-day meeting helps leaders to recognize using their best community resources and assets in community planning. Kennedy said 1,000 people have been through the program.
Johnston said in the future, she is focused on working with foundations and businesses in generating more resources, financial and non-financial, for the community. She noted one program now in place where Scott's Miracle Grow donates bags of soil it cannot sell at the end of the growing season, saving the company from reprocessing costs. Cawaco has found community and school gardens that the soil can be donated to. "Last year we distributed 36,000 bags," she said.
Kennedy said Bevill State Community College was able to load up a tractor trailer and bring soil to the Jasper Public Works Shed and dropped off eight pallets. It has since been used in downtown beautification projects, park and recreation needs, the Jasper City School System, kitchen gardens for culinary arts needs, and other small gardens.