Project Update- Greystone Elementary Outdoor Classroom

Back in 2011, Cawaco awarded Greystone Elementary School a grant to develop an outdoor classroom.  This first phase of the project allowed them to purchase native plants and trees, create a rain garden, and  install a pond.  They also bought a cistern to collect rainwater off the roof of the school to water the plants. This saves the school a lot of money, and it helps conserve our most precious resource- water.
IMG_3896  On October 27, 2014, Greystone was awarded their Outdoor Classroom certification from the Alabama Wildlife Federation!  It is always a delight to see projects blossom and mature!


Visit with Cornerstone

Patti Pennington was at Cornerstone School on October 20,  and met Ms. Crist and her kindergarten class. There have been many improvements since Cawaco helped Cornerstone get their garden going! Teacher excitement and involvement has made this project a HUGE success! Herb gardens, a rain barrell, and a sign with the Cawaco logo on it are among the new additions! The kids are outdoors every opportunity they get.


Board Member Spotlight


Meet Judge Chris Green of Blount County. He serves on the Cawaco Board Personnel and Executive Committees.

Chris is both a Blount County Probate Judge and Commission Chairman. He has also served as the Blount County Revenue Commissioner and Blount County Administrator.

Chris loves to go fishing, especially along the Beautiful Locust Fork River.

He also enjoys music. ”I love to play the fiddle and often get together with friends for a little front porch music jam.” He says.  Chris is also active in his church and enjoys being the music leader at  First Baptist Church Cleveland, Alabama.

I asked Chris how he came to know Cawaco RC&D, and he told me, “I became involved with Cawaco while serving as the Blount County Administrator. I appreciate the fact that CAWACO is very involved in projects that preserve our environment and provide increased recreational opportunities for our citizens.”  He then added, “Cawaco has assisted in multiple projects to improve our County Parks such as; making our restrooms handicap assessable, providing for a special trail to identify native trees and roof repairs to park buildings just to name a few. Cawaco has also assisted in many projects for properly equipping our volunteer fire departments.”



Kids learning water safety and kayaking

The kayaks are being put to good use and even made the paper!

Kids participate in Outdoor Adventure Camp

By Emily Etheredge

Published 3:56pm Thursday, July 3, 2014 Clanton Advertiser

Children participate in outdoor nature camp using Cawaco kayaks.

Children participate in outdoor nature camp using Cawaco kayaks.

JoJo Wells was excited to practice his archery techniques Thursday morning as he eagerly waited his turn at hitting the target.

“I hope I hit the bull’s-eye,” Wells, 7, said. “It is kind of tricky though.”

Wells, along with 17 other kids, participated in the three-day “Outdoor Adventures Camp” hosted by the Chilton County Extension Office at Minooka Park in Jemison.

The camp included activities from 9-2 p.m. July 1-3 that focused on topics including forestry, wildlife, archery, fishing and kayaking.

“We want to help get kids interested in outdoor activities,” said Josine Walter, a 4-H Regional Extension Agent. “Today we are focusing on archery, kayaking, and we will go over how to make a campfire.”

Other activities included in the camp taught kids how to measure the diameter of a tree, leaf identification, and a GPS-oriented scavenger hunt.

Sherry Wells brought her three grandchildren to the camp to get them involved with group activities during the summer.

“We have had a lot of fun,” Wells said. “I have noticed that they have learned patience and the value of teamwork. They have also made a lot of new friends, and commented to me this morning they were all sad to say goodbye to them.”

Wells said this was the first time for her grandchildren to participate in the “Outdoor Adventures Camp,” but she hopes to make it an annual event.

“They have all had a really great time,” Wells said. “They have gotten to be outside and learning different things. It is important to me that they have activities to keep them active throughout the summer.”

Walter said each child, ranging in ages from grade school to high school, more than likely hiked 3-5 miles each day.

“These kids have learned a lot this week,” Walter said.

Walter said the six kayaks used in the camp were provided through a state grant from Cawaco RC&D Council.

Walter gathered all of the kids under a shaded pavilion Thursday morning to go over the activities for the day.

“Today we are going to go kayaking,” Walter said. “Everyone who gets in the water has to wear a personal flotation device. I will also tell you that if you tip, it is OK. I can almost guarantee you will get wet.”

Dallas Day, 10, said she was excited to get in the water, but hoped the water wouldn’t be too cold.

“I think it will be fun,” Day said. “I can tell you this, the food has been great. We got to eat hobo chicken one day and grilled burgers, and it was delicious.”

Although Caleb Carpenter said he was excited to get in a kayak, he wanted to perfect his target hitting before heading to the water.

“I have been practicing with the bow and arrow,” Carpenter said. “I was about an inch away from the bull’s-eye one time.”

– See more at:


Palisades Park gets WiFi!

Cawaco RC&D id dedicated to the development and wise use of our Natural Resources. Although many will think that a park getting WiFi is not supporting natural resources, please remember- our focus for the next year is Parks and Rec. And WiFi will benefit the park, as well as the community and visitors. Visitors can now host meetings at the lodges and have internet access,  The park is now able to take internet reservations. And in the event of an emergency, Palisades Park is no longer in the dark.  We want to thank the Legislators for their continued support and interest in their area! We exist to help communities in need, and so do they.  Palisades WIFI Grant


Natural Resources Presentation at Camp McDowell


Executive Director Kellie Johnston makes Natural Resource presentation at the Your Town Alabama workshop on September 8, 2014.

Executive Director Kellie Johnston makes Natural Resource presentation at the Your Town Alabama workshop on September 8, 2014.

Cawaco constantly strives to promote the wise and thoughtful development of our natural resources, and has funded the Your Town Alabama program for several years. Your Town is a workshop for community leaders and planners. To learn more about Your Town, go here:


Rocky Ridge Fire District Awarded grant

Recently the Rocky Ridge Fire Department received a 10,000 grant from Cawaco RC&D for river rescue equipment. Since the purchase of the equipment, it has been used four times- and one of those times was during a training class on how to use the equipment!

The money allowed the fire department to buy a winch to go up and down steep hills. They were also able purchase this board along with floatation device to transport an injured person in the water.

For pictures and video, go here



Cawaco wins three State Awards

Paul McCaleb, Outstanding Council Member


Cawaco RC&D Council Chairman Paul McCaleb won the McCarty Award for Outstanding Council Member of the Year during the Alabama State RC&D Council Annual Meeting held in Mobile on May 30.

Paul McCaleb recognized for the following contributions to Cawaco:

  • Cawaco’s budget grew from $25,000 per year (1992) to over $500,000 (2014).
  • The Council is audited on a yearly basis
  • Parks and Recreation were made top priority for the next 2 years
  • Cawaco is one of the most successful, strongest Councils in Alabama

Paul McCaleb has been actively involved as a Cawaco Council member for over 30 years.  He serves on the Executive Board of the Alabama Association of RC&D Councils, and attends all scheduled state and local meetings. Paul is well-known and respected throughout the region.  Utilizing his influence and contacts, he has been able to identify several impactful Council projects, including: Equipment for fire and police departments, procurement and maintenance of a trailer equipped with tools for trails building and maintenance [to be used by volunteers], and educational programs for schools throughout the region.  Recently he introduced Cawaco to the Administrative Assistant to the Mayor of Birmingham, in an effort to form an alliance to help revitalize underserved areas of North Birmingham.
His commitment to the environment extends to his personal projects, utilizing sustainable methods for managing his forest land, planting wildlife plots, and installation and management of long leaf pine.

Cawaco Program Manager Wins Two Awards


Programs Manager, Patti Pennington received Employee of the Year AND Appreciation for Outstanding Service from the Alabama Association of Resource Conservation & Development Councils.  The awards were received at the State RC&D meeting, May 30th in Mobile, Alabama. 
The award for Outstanding Service was due to her support and leadership of the Electrathon Project.  Specifically, Patti was instrumental in developing the initial relationship with SKY as the program was beginning; nurturing the program and encouraging them to apply for Council grants.  The program provides hands-on education in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) to Calera High School students.  The program has moved from developing battery operated cars at Calera High School, which were donated and used as medical vehicles in Honduras, to a state wide competition that excites students to learn STEM skills while educating the public about alternative vehicles.
As Employee of the Year, Patti is in full charge of AARCDC program projects (challenge, education, and community development).  She brings an attitude of patience with grantees and nurtures their vision in service to others.  She is responsible for coordinating all public relations on behalf of the Council and does it in a way that elevates the Council in the eyes of the public.  In her administration duties, Patti also manages several successful Council projects: Seeds for Change, Tool Trailer for Trails and the River Kids Program. 


Board Member Spotlight

Fred Crawford  ALASKA1

Fred Crawford is the Economic Developer for Chilton County. As such, his responsibilities are to recruit business and to work with business to help them stay in Chilton County and/or expand.

Fred tells me he enjoys trying to get autographs on baseball cards, as well as autographs of baseball Hall of Fame players on baseballs.

His passion is to help the University of Montevallo and the American Village in any way he can. He hopes Cawaco will help make some dreams a reality through its grants program.

Fred says Cawaco was foreign to him until he was hired and took the position as Economic Developer, in June of 2012. He then found out about Cawaco by looking in the files of the Industrial Development Board. Fred tells me, “I thought Cawaco looked like a good thing to be involved in.”

Since then, Fred  has become a very active Board Member who ferrets out new projects and identifies areas of need in Chilton County.

I asked Fred what types of projects he is most interested in, and his response was, “Projects that interest me the most are the ones that get young people to think responsibly about in their life.”

He added, “The grants to the LeCroy Career Technical School and to Calera High School are the ones that I like best. The students are challenged by what they do and it makes them better people.” 

Gerald Arrington

Gerald Arrington is one of Cawaco’s newest Board Members, and manager of Minooka Park, an off-highway vehicle park owned by Chilton County.

Gerald shows off some fish he caught at the park.

Gerald shows off some fish he caught at the park.

When I asked Gerald what his hobbies were, he replied, ” I am interested in boating, golf, fishing, hunting, and watching/attending Auburn football games!”

Gerald first became aware of Cawaco when he applied for- and received- a Cawaco grant for signage, fish feeders, and fishing gear to be used at the eight acre fishing lake at Minooka Park

Gerald tells me he feels strongly about the Cawaco projects that affect the largest number of people in the community, especially young people.  He’s also  interested in projects that preserve the environment and get individuals involved in outdoor activities.


Gerald is a native of Chilton County and graduated from Chilton County High School in 1981.  He graduated from Auburn University in 1986 with a degree in Business Administration/Industrial management.  He has a  wife, Kim, and  two sons Mitch age 24 and Will age 20.