Learn how a lily saved the Cahaba River. Join the Cahaba River Society Family Reunion on January 31


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Birmingham Alabama
Majestic Cahaba Lily, photo by Pat Byington, Bham Now

On Thursday, January 31 at the Independent Presbyterian Church, the Cahaba River Society (CRS) will celebrate its 30th anniversary annual reunion with a Cahaba family reunion.

For the first time in three decades, the organization that led the charge to defend one of North America’s most biodiverse rivers and the source of half of Birmingham’s underground drinking water, is bringing together old and new supporters to reflect on the Cahaba River. The past of the company and open a new path for its future.

Dr Randall Haddock, Director of Conservation of the Cahaba River Society. Photo courtesy of Cahaba River Society

As part of the meeting, supporters are invited to send or bring to the meeting photos and videos of their fondest memories of the river and the organization.

To help CRS in this task, I submit my dearest stories here.

Why we needed a Cahaba River Society

In September 1989, I started my new job as Executive Director of the Alabama Conservancy. My neighbor at 2717 7th Avenue was a new organization called the Cahaba River Society. Although he was twenty years older, The Alabama Conservancy, which a few years later was renamed the Alabama Environmental Council, was like a big brother to the nascent CRS, but he never really wanted to.

Photo of Alabama Conservancy staff at 2717 7th Avenue South in 1990. The Cahaba River’s Society office was two doors down.

We were both too busy at the time, especially CRS.

At the time, CRS was fighting for the very survival of the river. For example, CRS opposed oil and gas projects that were allowed to dump their drilling muds and chemicals into the river.

They were also facing explosive population growth and development that was occurring in the Cahaba River watershed. In the late 1980s, the state’s water quality standards for the Cahaba River were woefully low. It was incumbent on the Cahaba River Society to improve water quality standards and make them more stringent to protect our drinking water.

Proposing stricter regulations has never been an easy task in Alabama. In fact, it is almost impossible.

Birmingha Alabamam
La’Tanya Scott teaches an environmental education class. Photo courtesy of the Cahaba River Society

Cahaba Lily has become a symbol of the river

Bailie Clark and Payton H Stantis. Photo courtesy of Bailie Clark.

But that all changed when Guy Arello and Beth Maynor Finch, two of the founding members of the Cahaba River Society captured the hearts and minds of all Alabamians and gave us all a reason to take care of the Cahaba River.

They made the Cahaba Lily the symbol of the river.

Thanks to Guy’s stunning graphics and Beth’s stunning photographs, our community has come together around this lily. It was so important, years later when the Cahaba River Society car label was created it was the lily prominently and the words Save the Cahaba replaced the Alabama slogan “Heart. of Dixie ”on the label.

2001 version of the Cahaba River Society car tag

Stricter rules and a national wildlife reserve

With the Cahaba Lily as its symbol, the Cahaba River Society has prevented companies from dumping their sludge into the Cahaba and its tributaries. They pushed ADEM to create a new, more protective and stringent water quality standard called “Outstanding Alabama Waters” or OAW.

Explore the Cahaba lilies in neighboring Bibb County. Photo courtesy of the Cahaba River Society

And these Cahaba lilies inspired Birmingham-area congressman Spencer Bachus to propose and pass legislation from the US Congress establishing the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, quite possibly the only National Wildlife Refuge in the United States. created to save a lily.

Lily cahaba
A stand of Cahaba Lilies aka Hymenocallis coronaria in Hargrove Shoals. Each flower opens overnight and lasts * one * day. (Bham now)

For me, after 30 years, my fondest memory is taking my daughter Whitney, every May or June, to see the lilies of Cahaba. Nothing compares to spending a day with a loved one, getting wet, walking very carefully along the shallows, then kneeling and sitting among the lilies. Thanks to the Cahaba River Society, anything is possible.

Cahaba River
Pat Byington of Bham Now with daughter Whitney Byington at the Cahaba River in 2012.

Be a part of the Cahaba family reunion: 30th anniversary annual reunion

So Mark Your Calendar – Cahaba Family Reunion: 30th Anniversary Annual Reunion – Thursday, January 31, 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

CRS asks supporters to share their memories. You can do this in 3 ways:

1. Send a birthday video of Cahaba to CRS. Here’s the video from longtime Cahaba River Society CEO Beth Stewart as an example:

2. Send them your photos of Cahaba. Contribute to the Cahaba family photo album! Please share your favorite photos, new and old, of you, your family and your friends on the Cahaba. Take a moment to scroll through the camera roll on your phone or rummage through your notebooks and send your #ThrowBackThursday Cahaba photos to CRS!

Please send all photo and video contributions to Katie Shaddix at [email protected]

And, the third element….

Join the Cahaba River Society at the reunion! Take part in a “family” group photo and celebrate three decades of progress and achievement.


  • Pat Byington

    Long-time environmentalist. Former Executive Director of the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Editor of Bama Environmental News for over 18 years. Highlights of his career include taking an active role in creating Alabama’s Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preserving special places throughout Is thanks to the Wilderness Society and strengthening (making it stricter) the cancer state of Alabama. risk and mercury standards.



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