On the side of Interstate 65 in Montgomery, Alabama, next to a popular McDonald's, is a small park. But it is not the type of park most imagine – there are no swing sets or picnic tables. This green space, known as Fairview Environmental Park, is a "working" park. Fairview Environmental Park, a 2.5-acre green space featuring an "s" shaped stream in the center, works to improve water quality by filtering out trash and debris before it reaches nearby waterways. This park, while unassuming, is helping keep Alabama's waterways clean.
Fairview Environmental Park, located in a blighted, underserved community, was specifically engineered to collect debris that would otherwise end up in nearby waterways.
Funding from the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grant program made this Park possible. This nationwide program helps fund community-based restoration efforts and, in the Southeast, is sponsored by Southern Company and its operating companies. Employees from across the system have embraced the program, volunteering with Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grantees in their local communities. Many employees also volunteer their time by serving on the committee that reviews grant applications for the program.
Last month, the committee, along with partners from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency, joined together to kick off the 2017 grant review process. The group also toured four restoration projects that were funded through the grant program, including Fairview Environmental Park.
"These site visits are unique to Southern Company and are an integral part of our employee culture," explains Leslie Cox, Southern Company environmental stewardship manager. "The experience really resonates with our committee. Seeing the impact these projects have on the communities around them encourages employees to pitch in and give back in their own way."
A hallmark of the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grant program is that projects must involve at least five diverse partners. The committee was privileged to meet many project partners during site visits and see firsthand how the grant program is making a difference.