Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rock creek Watershed Management Plan

There were several meetings in 2010 discussing a Rock Creek watershed management plan. There was a plan that was finally agreed upon by the local property owners and the Alabama Water Watch team who will be the ones acquiring a grant and then following up with a manager/overseer along with assistance from both the Winston County and Cullman County Extension Offices and The District Soil and Water Offices. The Rock Creek Water Shed includes White Oak and Crooked Creeks, 200 # sq. miles of Water Shed.. The grant was written and submitted in June to ADEM, it was reviewed by ADEM sent back to AWW., with questions, asking for more detailed answers, this was completed, resubmitted in August. There was a verbal approval in november , we are expecting the written approval as to total amount of the grant in January. This watershed plan is for 3 years and it could take 5 years. Rock Creek and Crooked Creek both have a 303D listed at EPA, this means there is some type of contamination on each creek. This we want removed plus when the watershed plan has been completed the water entering the lake from the 3 creeks should be clear, clean and pristine. We not only must have cooperation from farmers, cattlemen, poultry producers, forestry managers/owners but also home owners on the lake. One homeowner has the capabilities of contaminating the lake worse than someone who owns several hundred acres in the watershed. We have a lot of educating to do, but with cooperation from everyone involved in this watershed plan, we can have a pristine lake to enjoy by many for decades in the future.

2011 cleanups

We had 3 cleanups this year with Al power boats, plus 2 or 3 private cleanups with our boat/barge.The last cleanup was in Sept.when that was completed we had removed all white styrofoam,we could find on the lake north of Duncan bridge. We still have 1 or 2 loads of white styrofoam from the mouth of Rock Creek north. This will be removed before spring by having a cleanup with wcslai boat/barge and local people helping.
Our 1st cleanup in 2011 will be Saturday April 30th. We will be cleaning up sloughs on Rock Creek,White Oak, Crooked and Little crooked Creeks.hopefully we can clean the sloughs all the way to Duncan Bridge.
The next cleanup will be Friday and Saturday June 17th and 18th. We are in hopes of cleaning all the sloughs from Duncan Bridge north on Smith Lake. We will have dumpsters placed in different locations for easy boat unloading and will furnish all the bags for these cleanups. Start planning now, when you pick up your bags let us know where you are going to cleanup. Just come and help if you don't have a boat. Do you property owners, home owners and fishermen want to see Smith Lake really cleaned up, plan to help us those 3 days in 2011. More info on location of dumpsters and where to pick up bags later.My # 256-747-4422

Sunday, December 19, 2010

LaVerne Matheson Selected as the Arley Women's Club Person of the Year

LaVerne has been selected as the Arley Women's Club Person of the Year!  The following is a message from Linda Atkinson about the news  :

Our President and founding father of Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy was selected last week as the Arley Women’s Club Person of the Year!  We are so proud of him, and hope that you will extend congratulations his way!   Below is the nomination detailing his accomplishments.

Merry Christmas to you and yours from your Board members, and Happy New (cleaner Lake) Year!


Linda Atkinson, Secretary Treasurer

When the Arley Person of the Year moved from Florida to Alabama, he immediately recognized a need to become involved with local conservation and community groups.  He noticed that some parts of Lewis Smith Lake were having clean-up events but none within Winston County.  He also found that, even though some landowners were concerned about water quality there was no organized group doing anything about it.  He then organized and led the effort to establish Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy in 2006.  Since that time, the group has grown to 80 members.  The Advocacy Group’s mission is to preserve and protect the environmental quality of Lewis Smith Lake and its tributaries through education of the public and promotion and implementation of sound environmental practices. 

This person is the backbone of the group and is responsible for a number of achievements.  To educate Winston County residents and leaders about the importance of watershed health and highlight our unique and clean water resources, this person has provided presentations and slide shows to County Commissioners and others at community events and public meetings.  He represents the group on the Winston County Natural Resources Council and the Bankhead National Forest’s Liaison Panel. 

This person and the Advocacy Group have hosted several Alabama Water Watch training courses for volunteer water quality testers.  The Advocacy Group volunteers (including this person and some 30 others) test Smith Lake’s water at 18 sites in Winston County.  The Group provides testing equipment and reports results to Alabama Water Watch.  The Alabama Water Watch recognized this person with their Fresh Face Award for outstanding performance and contributions of a group that quickly organized monitoring efforts in 2007.

Perhaps the greatest local achievement of this person and the Advocacy Group is their work with Alabama Power Company’s Renew Our Rivers program.  This is a waterways clean-up program to remove Styrofoam, litter and abandoned boat houses from Smith Lake.  This person has single-handedly organized two clean-ups on Rock Creek and coordinated with the Bankhead National Forest to have two clean-ups on Clear Creek and Sipsey Fork.   Hundreds of landowners, the Winston County Commission and local businesses have worked together on this project.  This person understood the need for local involvement and garnered support from the Winston County Commission and other community leaders and businesses.  He has also secured free disposal sites for homeowners to discard old boat house Styrofoam in a responsible manner.  To date many river miles in Winston County have been cleaned-up resulting in an estimated 700 tons of debris removed from our waters.  Over 130 structures were included in that number.

Not only has he led the effort to get the waterways cleaned up; he has also worked to educate the next generation about the issues of water quality.  Partnering with Alabama Power Company, he and the Advocacy Group have distributed Message In A Bottle coloring books to all Winston County elementary school children for the last three years.  These educational coloring books teach students about littering and pollution of our waterways.  They have also participated in the FAWN field days by having an educational lesson on Water Quality for all 5th graders in Winston County Schools.

This person spent many hours working with Alabama Water Watch and many other organizations to develop a project plan that would help rescue parts of the Rock Creek Watershed from the 303D endangered streams list.  He has worked diligently with Advocacy and a local company to obtain a grant and to execute it to erect signs at the entrance to 33 creeks on Smith Lake in Winston County.

In 2009, this person received the prestigious W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Award for 2008, an award administered by Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences to recognize individual achievements in promoting the wiser use of renewable natural resources.

This person is a dedicated volunteer.  He is interested and actively engaged in the conservation of water resources in his new home community on Smith Lake and Winston County.

Sounds like a person with a lot of energy… and he and his lovely bride bought a Wave Runner for the first time and have been enjoying it immensely, and they recently decided that they wanted to realize another lifelong dream…they bought a 1994 Jaguar convertible and have been cruising the highways and byways.. he’ll be 82 years young this month, so wish a very happy birthday to the 2010 Arley Women’s Club Person of the Year, the amazing LaVerne Matheson!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Just a little news:
During Thanksgiving week Cordy asked me about cutting and removing Some 15 to 20 small pine trees on the slope of our yard going down to the lake. I went and looked and sure enough all the trees from the water to the lower deck in an area about 30 feet wide were gone. Nothing left but a few pine seedlings. Who removed them BEAVERS, where did they take these 4 to 6 foot pine trees we don’t know. I talked with my neighbor David and he has been seeing beaver at dusk come close to his boat house when he is fishing. I was talking with Paul, he lives on Crooked Creek and the beavers cut about 20 trees down and removed them from their property plus climbing on the pontoons of their boat and sometimes making a mess. I assume some of you are having the same problems. What can we do to help alleviate this problem? There is open season on beaver in Al., you can shoot them, trap them or hire someone to remove/reduce the size of the beaver family. David was keeping crappe in his fish basket, until he had several to clean, but the otter cut a hole in the basket, took his fish. I was with Judy and Warren last week they live on White Oak, they were telling me about a Bobcat being in their yard just squalling away. Warren turned on the outdoor lights, went outside and scared the bobcat off. Most all of us hear coyotes at night. We are so lucky to be living in area where we have both a beautiful lake to enjoy as well as nature with all of it’s magnificent surprises and yes, problems to. Merry Christmas and Happy New Years

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rain Barrel Workshop

Alabama Environmental Council
Rain Barrel Workshop
December 4, 2010 at Camp McDowell

Contact Adam Johnston at Camp McDowell at or 205-300-0555 for more information or to register.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rainbow Trout Released Below Smith Lake Dam

Here's an article from the Birmingham News about rainbow trout being released below the Smith Lake Dam.  The link is here:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hunters Encouraged to Take Feral Swine on Bankhead National Forest

Hunters are encouraged to take feral swine when hunting on Bankhead National Forest and Black Warrior Wildlife Management Area when a legal opportunity arises. To learn more about the feral swine hunting regulations and the problems associated with this non-native, nuisance animal see the News Release here -

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Free Rain Barrel Workshop in Florence

This is Heath King with the Northwest AL RC&D Council. We have secured a grant that will allow us to host a FREE Rain Barrel workshop at the Lauderdale County ACES office on December 1, 2010 at 9 a.m.. This will be a joint project with Extension staff involvement as well as other dedicated volunteers.
I have attached a flyer and a pre-registration form. Please distribute these items to your contacts at schools, community centers, and any other individuals that are interested in the positive benefits of recycling precious natural resources through the use of Rain Barrels.

The grant will allow the workshop to be free and each participant will get to construct their own rain barrel and take it with them. Registration will be first come, first serve so make sure any interested parties email, snail mail, or fax the attached pre-registration form back to me in a timely manner. My contact info is listed on the pre-registration form.  See registration form here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hi, Lake lovers! Our Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy lake signage project that has been funded by the Northwest Alabama Resource Conservation and Development Council is coming to life! See the attached photo of the first sign to be erected of 33. These 33 signs will identify to boaters all 33 creeks and feeders along the Smith Lake shores in Winston County. Our great friends at Winston Steel are working with us to put up the signs.

Many thanks to Tom Grubbs and Burt Jones of WCSLAI, and all those who have been instrumental in making our lake even better than ever!

Linda Atkinson
For your Board of Directors

Rock Creek (Water Shed) Clean-up

We are planning a 2 day clean-up with our boat/barge Tuesday Oct. 26th & Wenseday 27th., to remove the rest of the white styrofoam still floatingor laying on the shoreline.We need 6 people working on the barge each day.Do you live on Rock,White Oak,Crooked Creeks or Little Crooked Creek.These are the areas we will be picking up styrofoam in. Can you help us for a day,give me a call 256-747-4422 I'll tell you where to meet us each morning. WHEN THIS CLEAN-UP IS COMPLETED,HOPEFULLY WE WILL NOT SEE ANYMORE WHITE STYROFOAM!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Winston County FAWN Programs Held at Houston Recreation Area

The 2010 Winston County FAWN Program was held on October 13 and 14, at the Houston Recreation Area in the Bankhead National Forest. 335 sixth graders attended the outdoor field days that included eight learning stations on a variety of natural resource and safety topics. Photos for the FAWN for the Addison, Double Springs, and Lynn Schools are available here. The photos for the FAWN program for the Haleyville and Meek Schools are available here. Thanks to all the partners that work together to provide the FAWN program for all Winston County sixth graders. Here's a partial list of the sponsors:

AL Cooperative Extension System/Winston County Office
AL Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources
Alabama Forestry Commission
Cradle of Forestry
Forest Stewardship Education Committee
Gateway Foods, Double Springs
Haleyville Board of Education
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
Northwest Alabama RC&D Council
Regional Paramedical Services
Soil & Water Conservation District/Winston County Office
U. S. Forest Service, Bankhead National Forest
Winston County Assign-A-Highway
Winston County Board of Education
Winston County Commission
Winston County Emergency Management
Winston County Farmers Federation
Winston County Natural Resources Council
Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Inc.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fire Restrictions

U. S. Forest Service Restricts Fire Use in Bankhead National Forest
Posted: 01 Oct 2010 01:52 PM PDT
Montgomery, AL (September 28, 2010) ---- Because of the extreme dry conditions that can possibly lead to wildfires, the U.S. Forest Service is alerting all forest users to be aware of specific public fire use restrictions in Alabama’s national forests. Forest Supervisor Miera C. Nagy recently signed an order that prohibits the use of fire in wilderness areas in the Bankhead and Talladega National Forests.
To protect the public and natural resources from the threat of wildfires, the following public restrictions are effective September 24, 2010 and will remain in effect until October 31, 2010:
Bankhead National Forest – Sipsey Wilderness; Talladega National Forest (Talladega and Shoal Creek Districts) - Dugger Wilderness and Cheaha Wilderness
 Building, maintaining, attending, using a fire or campfire (wood or charcoal) at any wilderness area located on the Bankhead, Shoal Creek, and Talladega Ranger Districts of the National Forests in Alabama; except, the use of gas generated fire in a Coleman-type or backpacking stove will be allowed throughout the Sipsey, Dugger, and Cheaha Wilderness Areas on the Bankhead, Shoal Creek, and Talladega Ranger Districts. 36 CFR 261.52(a).
 Violating any state law concerning burning or fires which are implemented for the purpose of preventing or restricting the spread of fires. 36 CFR 261.52(k)
 Pursuant to 36 CFR 261.50 (e), the following persons are exempt from the order: Any federal, state, local officer or member of an organized rescue or fire fighting team or those holding a permit specifically authorizing the use of fire.
Anyone found violating any of these prohibitions might face a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization or imprisonment for not more than six months or both.
Forest Service officials advise that if you are planning to spend a few days in the national forest, you should look for changes in restrictions, which could change according to fire weather conditions. Human-caused fires can be reduced during these very dry conditions when everyone work together to prevent wildfires.
For information concerning any public restrictions and closure orders, please contact a U.S. Forest Service district office before visiting: Bankhead District (205) 489-5111, Conecuh District (334) 222-2555, Shoal Creek District (256) 463-2272; Talladega District (256) 362-2909; Oakmulgee District (205) 926-9765; and the Tuskegee District (334) 727-2652.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Advocacy Board Meeting

Tuesday Oct.5th at 10:00 A.M., there will be a board meeting at the Traders and Farmers Bank in Arley.There are many items to discuss, October bacteria blitz,installing signage on the lake, fawn program,purchasing new equipment to show watershed power point program to schools,change of equipment on the Advocacy boat,additional information to give the schools when we deliver the coloring books,John Ledbetter will explain some new changes on the lake, Oct. clean-up on Rock Creek. Will we have a slough clean-up this year, depends upon how many people come forward to offer to help with a clean-up.We can supply the bags.Maybe you want to just clean-up your own slough, do you need bags, call us, let us know where you are going to clean-up.Do you have something that you would like to see done on the lake, come tell us about your idea. Board meetings open to the public, hope to see you on the 5th.

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 14th clean-up

Tuesday the 14th we used the Old Yellow Creek Marina,for our clean-up location. We had our boat-barge there and Al.Power brought one of their boats. Donny Cagle (works for Al. Power) had been observing where there was still white styrofoam to be picked up.Al. power boat went south from the marina and Donny Cagle told them where there was styrofoam to be picked up. The Advocacy went north with their boat-barge with Dennis Quinn riding his wave runner, going in every cove/slough checking for styrofoam.We went as far north as there were homes, turned back south after coming to Bankhead Forests property. We went up the east bank of Sipsy and came down the west bank of Sipsy.There were 3 pieces of styrofoam we could not get, to much mud.We left at 8:30 arrived back at the Marina about 3:30.We had a good load of styrofoam,3 or 4 tires and some other debris. Al.Power boat had 1 full load and a half of another load. They had already gone home.We consider the lake clean of white styrofoam from Duncan bridge north. Sometime in October hopefully we can have a 1 day clean-up on Rock Creek, then the lake in Winston County will be pretty much clean of the white styrofoam floating on the lake. Thanks to Carl Godsey for letting us use Yellow Creek Marina and The help from "our county Commissioners",the clean-up was very successful. TO FINISH CLEANING UP THE LAKE IN WINSTON COUNTY WE NEED A SLOUGH CLEAN-UP.THIS TAKES A LOT OF PEOPLE AND BOATS.SUGGESTIONS!! WE WILL FURNISH THE BAGS AND ARRANGE FOR DUMPSTERS. CALL US WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU TAKE CARE OF THIS BEAUTIFUL LAKE.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

WCSLAI Supports the FAWN Program

LaVerne Matheson, President of WCSLAI, presents the
Council with a $1,000 check to support the FAWN
program for Winston County sixth graders.
Special thanks to Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Inc. for supporting the FAWN (Forestry Awareness Week Now) program. This program is conducted by the Winston County Natural Resources Council and it provides an outdoor field day for Winston County sixth graders at the Houston Recreation Area. Eight learning stations will focus on a wide range of topics related to natural resources. Learning stations directly related to Smith Lake include Water Quality, Water Safety, and Forest Soils. Many WCSLAI members have assisted with the past FAWN programs including LaVerne Matheson, Tom Grubbs, Allison Cochran, Judy Lambert, Mary Ann Crunk, and Melissa Yates.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

board meeting sept 7th

We had a very good board meeting.Mary Ann had some questions about the last bacteria blitz done on the lake. Suggested she call AWW for answers,she has,has recieved answers to part of her Questions.Tom is working on ways to put up the signs, if you live on one of the named sloughs on the lake map,in Winston County, please call us, we need your help in maintaining and care of these signs after there erected in your slough.
)n Sept. 14th and 15th we are having another clean-up, hopefully remove all existing white styrofoam still floating on the lake from Duncan Bridge north.We will be using the old yellow creek marina.Go to Houston,turn on Co.Rd. 61 go to the end of the road, you will find us working there.
Beasley Poker Run presented us with another monatary gift. Al. Power also presented us with a monatary gift.We thank both parties for their generous gift and will use these monies for the benifit of Smith Lake. We also voted to give Winston County Natural resources council a 1,000.00 to assist with having the Fawn Program this fall for all 6th graders,(400 +) in Winston County Schools. This is a great program, if you are not familiar with it ,check it out!!!
Linda has the coloring books from Al.Power(bottle in the Water). These are great coloring books teaching kids how to take care of water in rivers and lakes.We will be giving a coloring book to all elementary schools for there kids from kindergarden through 3rd grade.Approximately 1400 coloring books!!
The Grant money for the Rock Creek water Management plan still has not been approved,expect approval momentarily.

Monday, August 23, 2010

coloring books

Kitty Chance met Doug Powell at his office, and picked up 1600 Alabama Power coloring books,teacher guides and a disk, for each teacher.allowing her to show the coloring books to anyone and also make copies of the coloring book. We will once again be giving a coloring book to all kids from kindergarden thru 3rd grade in all 5 elementary schools in Winston County. These books will be delivered to each school in September. These books hopefully will help these youngsters, learn how to take care of water, in creeks,rivers and lakes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

board meeting

september 7th @ 10:00 AM @ Traders and Farmers Bank, Arley

We will be discussing many subjects/projects. The immediate
project is the 3 day lake clean-up, September 14th,15th, 16th.
We will be discussing location for this clean-up.The clean-up
will be at kings Boat Docks, on Rock Creek 1 day, the other 2 day
location will be decided, by where the greatest amount of styrofoam
to pick up, is presently located. With Al. Powers Boat assisting
we are planning to remove all white styrofoam, floating or laying
on the shoreline, on Smith Lake, in Winston County.Once again we
will not be accepting any boathouses or platforms. We need your
help or you and your boat.Check this blog on September 8th for more
info about the 2 day location.
Our meetings are open to the public. Help us take care of the lake!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chemistry Water Monitoring Training Workshop Conducted on Smith Lake

Alabama Water Watch Staff and volunteer instructors conducted a Chemistry Water Monitoring Training Workshop at the Smith Lake Civic Association Building and Duncan Bridge Marina. Special thanks to volunteer instructors Larry Barkey with Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Inc. and John Kulbitskas with the Smith Lake Civic Association. Nine volunteers were certified and seven additional volunteers were re-certified. Certified Chemistry Water Monitoring volunteers can submit water testing data to the Alabama Water Watch database so that water quality trends can be tracked over time. Volunteers were trained to test water pH, total hardness, total alkalinity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and temperature. Thanks to everyone that took part to make the training a success.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

board meeting

next meeting is Tuesday July 13th, 6:30 P.M. Traders nd Farmers Bank in Arley.
Our meetings are open to the public. Agenda has not been published. June cleanup removed over 15 tons of styrofoam plus debris in dumpster.Attaching a letter about some activities in July.
Dear Rock Creek Stakeholders,
I hope that all of you are having great summers and are gearing up for a fun 4th of July weekend! I would like to give you a quick update on the progress of the Rock Creek Watershed Management Plan project, and also tell you about some upcoming events including our Summer Bacteria Blitz.
We officially submitted the final Rock Creek Watershed Management Plan (RCWMP) last week and are now finishing the application to ADEM for funding to implement the Plan. Thanks to all of your valuable input and assistance, the planning process was great and the finished product, the Plan, is something that we can all be proud of. Thank you so much for taking the time to be a part of the process. We can’t wait to start working with you to put the Plan into action. You are making a difference in your watershed and beyond! Your grandchildren and great grandchildren will thank you for keeping the Rock Creek Watershed clean and beautiful. A million thanks!
We have several activities programmed for the days of July 22-24, that we would love for you to join in on.
On Thursday July 22, at 7 pm, we will have a brief meeting at the Traders and Farmers Bank in Addison to present the final Rock Creek Watershed Management Plan to interested stakeholders (copies will be available). This will also be a time for you to ask questions about the plan and the implementation process.
On Friday July 23, from 12:30 pm until 6:30 pm, Alabama Water Watch (AWW) will be holding a free Chemistry Water Monitoring Workshop at the home of Deb Berry [Smith Lake Environmental Preservation Committee, (SLEPC)], which is in Cullman County on the Simpson Branch of Ryan Creek.
On Saturday July 24, from 12:30 pm until 6:30 pm, AWW will be holding another free Chemistry Water Monitoring Workshop in Arley at the Traders and Farmers Bank Building.
If you have been certified by AWW, but need recertification, you will have an opportunity to be recertified at both workshops from 3:30 pm until 6:30 pm.
Please go to to register for your workshop.
Also, we will be attending the SLEPC meeting which begins at 9 am on Saturday July 24th, at the Dodge House Restaurant in Dodge City. We will briefly discuss the Winter Bacteria Blitz results and other AWW news. Please join us!
The Summer Bacteria Blitz will be ongoing throughout the three days. You can pick up testing materials at the RCWMP meeting on Thursday night or at the workshop on Friday. If you are not going to incubate your own samples, we can get your samples at either the Friday or Saturday workshops (depending on the day you test), or at the SLEPC meeting at the Dodge House Restaurant. We can coordinate other meeting times if these do not work for you. Because its summer and the temperatures are up (which makes bacteria like E. coli happy), we hope to monitor more sites than ever during this Blitz. We really need your help!
I’m sorry for the information overload, but am very excited for all of these activities! Feel free to contact me with any questions. We look forward to seeing you!

Mona Scruggs
Alabama Water Watch
250 Upchurch Hall
Auburn University, AL 36849-
Cel: 251-282-9998
Office: 1-888.844.4785 or 334.844.4785

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June Clean-up A Success

Special thanks go out to all of the volunteers, organizations and businesses that continue to support the Renew Our Rivers effort to keep Smith Lake clean and beautiful! Over 51 individuals, including volunteers, Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy members, Alabama Power Company staff, and Bankhead National Forest staff removed styrofoam during the June 17 - 19 clean-up in Winston County.

Thanks to volunteer Mike Henshaw for capturing some of the hot, dirty and heavy work on film.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Board meeting

Tuesday June 8th 6:30 p.M. Traders and Farmers Bank

Proposed Agenda
Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc.
June 8, 2010

Minutes/Treasurers report Linda

Report on Water Testing Mary Ann

report on signage project Tom

Bag Program for boaters ALL

Rock Creek Water Management Plan Laverne

June Clean-up and Picnic All

Other new business

Open to the public

Friday, May 21, 2010

Alabama Smart Yards Program

There's a new publication available to lakefront property owners titled Alabama Smart Yards.  This publication was a team effort between the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association, the Alabama Master Gardeners Association, and the Auburn University Department of Horticulture.  Quoting the publication "Conservation and efficient, responsible use of our natural resources is the overriding concept and the educational goal of the Alabama Smart Yards (ASY) program. Participating in this process will save you time, energy, and money while preserving our natural heritage."  This 100-page publication details subjects such as landscape design, planting, watering, mulching, wildlife, pests, stormwater, and protecting waterfronts.  The publication was recently mentioned at one of our of our Rock Creek Watershed meetings and thought some WCSLAI members might like a copy.  We've ordered a 100 copies of the publication.  If you would like one give me a call at 489-5376, and I'll send it to you when they come in.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Next Clean-up - June 17 - 19 - Houston Rec Area

Please join us for the summer Renew Our Rivers clean-up on Smith Lake in Winston County. The target of the June 17 - 19 clean-up is loose styrofoam and litter which will be accepted at the Bankhead National Forest's Houston Recreation Area boat ramp. More details about the clean-up can be found on the flyer at the following link:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Board meeting

Our board meeting May 10th was very productive, with discussions about our public meeting in April, signage, April clean-up, progress of the Rock Creek Watershed Management Plan, status of the Power Point Watershed program ,decision on location where to have the June 17th,18th and 19th clean-up,discussion of localized clean-ups, possibilities of having a bag for boaters to take with them, to put their trash in, and bring back to shore for disposal. Meeting was adjouned. Next board meeting Tuesday night, June 8th @ 6:30 P.M., Traders & Farmers Bank, Arley. Our Board Meetings open to the public.Do you have something you would like to bring to our attention,or just learn more about WCSLAI ,come be with us on June 8th.

2010 Board of Directors
Linda Atkinson
Larry Barkey
Bob Beatty
Sammy Boggan
David Brown
Kitty Chance
Mary Ann Crunk
Paul Gillette
Tom Grubbs
Burt Jones
Judy Lambert
LaVerne Matheson>

Monday, May 3, 2010

2 day clean-up

How did 33 adult and 4 youngster volunteers bring in 8.4 tons of Styrofoam and trash? Just take a look at some of the enclosed pictures and you'll understand!! Many of the volunteers came for both days and gave blood (yes, some cuts and bruises), sweat (even though the weather was perfect), and hopefully, only internal tears (because we hate to see our beautiful lake trashed by uncaring people).

That's 8.4 more tons of trash removed from Smith Lake in Winston County, thanks to the Renew Our Rivers initiative and a partnership with Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc.

TONS of thanks to our hard-working volunteers, and to our incredible friends, Jim and Shirley King and Sammy Boggan, who provided the site and the two forklifts, with Jim and Sammy doing the driving. Tarrie Hyche the dumpsters. You're all the greatest!!

Linda Atkinson, on behalf of
Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc.

next board meeting

Arley, Trader and Farmers Bank Monday May 10th @ 10:A.M.

Remember, odd date for meeting, is Monday May 10.
Agenda below. Minutes from previous meeting under separate email to follow.
See you at Arley Day!

Proposed Agenda
Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc.
May 10, 2010

1-Minutes of last meeting Judy
2- Treasurers report
3- Discussion of public meeting All
4-Progress of signage project Tom
5-Update on Rock Creek Watershed Management plans Mona &LaVerne
6-Discuss results of April clean-up All (37 volunteers, 8.4 tons, 1 dumpster full)
7-Planning 2-1/2 day clean-up June 17, 18, 19:
location, picnic, flyers, publication All
Status of sponsorships/t-shirts Allison
8-Bags for trash, distributed by WCSLAI Paul
9-Watershed yearly scholarship LaVerne
10-Report on success of watershed program @Winston County Natural Resources Field Day Mona & LaVerne
11-report on clean-up by local homeowners Burt

New business
Adjourn, schedule next meeting (1st Mondays?) All

open to public

Friday, April 23, 2010

Smith Lake Residents Embrace Watershed Management

By: Eric Reutebuch
The seeds of watershed planning have been sown over the past several years in the Smith Lake Watershed at the annual ‘State of the Lake Address’ sponsored by Smith Lake Environmental Preservation Committee, or SLEPC. Alabama Water Watch (AWW) staff annually evaluate volunteer monitor data collected by the five active monitoring groups in the Smith Lake Watershed and look at long-term trends in the data to see if the water quality in sections of the lake is getting better or worse. The five water monitoring groups include SLEPC (on Ryan Creek), Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Inc., or WCSLAI (on Crooked, Rock, Brushy and Sipsey Fork), Camp McDowell (on Clear Creek), Smith Lake Civic Association, or SLCA (on the lower lake), and Cullman County Soil and Water Conservation District, or CULCO (on streams throughout Cullman County).

AWW has trained and certified 64 citizen monitors in Water Chemistry and/or Bacteriological Monitoring in the Smith Lake Watershed. They monitor over 60 sites on the lake and its tributary streams, and have contributed over 1,700 water quality records to AWWs statewide database (for more information, see

Along with evaluation of lake conditions, AWW encourages citizen monitors to put their data to work. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management, or ADEM, provides funding through their Nonpoint Source 319 Grant program to implement on-the-ground improvements, primarily targeting impaired streams. Citizen monitors of the Rock Creek Watershed became interested in going beyond monitoring, and partnered with AWW in pursuing an ADEM grant to develop a watershed management plan for the Rock Creek Watershed. The Rock Creek Watershed is one of several around the state that has stream sections that have been deemed impaired (polluted) by ADEM, and is therefore a prime candidate for a 319 grant to improve the landscape and clean up the creek.

AWW personnel began meeting with various stakeholder groups in Winston and Cullman counties in the summer of 2009. Several meetings with key stakeholders (municipal leaders, resource managers, county officials, local residents, to name a few) were arranged by the president of WCSLAI, LaVerne Matheson. LaVerne was keenly interested in educating children in the local schools about environmental issues and the value of protecting our natural resources. Many others residents have become involved with the watershed management planning process through meetings and expanding water monitoring efforts.

Watershed-level bacteria monitoring was initiated earlier this year on a brisk February day. This type of monitoring is being initiated in other watersheds around Alabama, such as Lake Wedowee (see, and the Saugahatchee Watershed (see and click Activities).

In the Rock Creek Watershed and greater Smith Lake Watershed, the bacteriological training and monitoring supplies are provided by an EPA-funded project, the Global Water Watch-Gulf of Mexico Alliance, or GWW-GOMA. This ‘blitz’ sampling gives a valuable snapshot of water quality of the whole watershed. The February Blitz of Rock Creek Watershed was accomplished through the assistance of 24 certified volunteer monitors who monitored 43 sample sites on Smith Lake and its tributaries. Results indicated unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria at four sampling locations (see map for details). To date, this is the most comprehensive snapshot of the watershed health, relative to bacterial contamination, of the Smith Lake Watershed!

A second bacteriological monitoring blitz was conducted in April 2010, and 22 monitors from four water watch groups sampled at most of the February Blitz sites. Surprisingly, even though the weather and water temperatures were significantly higher than those of blitz #1 (no sleet/snow this time around), unsafe levels of E. coli were found at only one sampling location. Repeated watershed-level sampling will be extremely valuable in evaluating the watershed and prioritizing resources for implementing best management practices – a major goal of the watershed management plan.

The GWW-GOMA project will fund seasonal bacteriological blitz sampling for two years. The data and information collected from this sampling will be of great value in focusing stakeholder watershed protection activities where they are most needed to reduce pollutants flushing into the lake.

Volunteer monitoring has provided a solid foundation for citizen involvement in the watershed management planning process. Citizens who become trained in water monitoring also become knowledgeable in watershed processes and water issues. As Winston County Extension Agent, Mike Henshaw put it, it has been a “learning by doing” experience. They also become empowered and encouraged to be a part of watershed management in their local watershed. Participation from residents, members of citizen groups, municipal government officials, county government officials, resource management agencies (Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, National Forest Service) in the development of the Rock Creek Watershed Management Plan over the past several months is laying the foundation for long-term, sustainable resource management in the watershed. Good job, Rock Creek Stakeholders!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rock Creek Project and Spring Bacteria Blitz Updates

First of all we would like to say that we enjoyed being a part of the WCSLAI Annual meeting. It was great to hear about all of the wonderful things that are going on with the organization. Thanks for having us! Here are a couple of updates of interest.

The Rock Creek Watershed Management Plan meeting on April 8th was very successful. Several community members (including WCSLAI members) and representatives of local government and agencies came out to give feedback about the plan. The plan is being completed, but there will be one more opportunity for you to check it out and provide input on April 29th, at 7pm in Addison at the Traders and Farmers Bank. We encourage you to come and participate in the ongoing planning process!

The Spring Bacteria Blitz was also a success! There were around 30 sites tested throughout the Smith Lake Watershed. About 1/3 showed signs of E.coli bacteria. If you would like to hear more, come out to the meeting in Addison on April 29th, where we will briefly discuss the results.

Hope to see you soon!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring Clean-Up

Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc.

Join us for the Annual Winston County Smith Lake
Spring Clean-Up

April 21 and 22
Volunteer help is needed to keep Smith Lake clean & beautiful!

Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc. and the Renew Our Rivers team need your help for one or two days to remove Styrofoam and litter from Smith Lake in Winston County. Volunteers are needed to work on our boats on April 21 and 22. Volunteers with boats may bring Styrofoam and litter to the collection site. Land-loving volunteers are needed each day to assist in unloading. The clean-up will begin at 8 AM each of the 2 days.

Focus areas this year include:
Rock Creek, Crooked and Little Crooked Creeks and White Oak

The collection site will be Jim Kings Boat Dock yard
Directions: Co. Rd. 22 to Co. Rd. 4006 to Co. Rd. 222 “go to dead end”
We will be working out on the point

Boathouses and swim platforms will be accepted at another site but you must call for instructions and directions prior to pulling in structures. The number to call is 205-387-9999.
Linda (205) 387-9999 for information on the clean-up, for Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Group, Inc. membership information, and to
sign-up for the clean-up

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Please Join Us!

Please remember the Rock Creek Watershed Management Project Meeting that will be on Thursday April 8th at 7pm in Addison at the Traders and Farmers Bank Building.

We will be presenting a draft of the Rock Creek
Watershed Management Plan, and would really appreciate your help with putting on the finishing touches!

We are also having a Spring Bacteria which will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 9-10th.

If you are interested, and haven't already done so, please reply to this email or call me at (251) 282-9998 to coordinate the materials pick up and plate turn-in. Hope we can count on you!

There will be no training workshops during this trip, but we hope to plan another one soon.

Thanks and hope to see you soon!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Advocacy's accomplishments and projects

Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization which was formed in 2006. Our very active board of directors consists of a President, Vice-President, a Secretary/Treasurer and 9 additional directors.

Since WCSLAI was formed volunteers have removed 150 truckloads of Styrofoam from the lake and along the shores of Smith Lake in Winston County. In addition, over 130 boat docks, boathouses and other platforms that had been abandoned (and in some cases, found floating on the Lake) were removed. Other debris, filling many dumpsters, has been removed.

WCSLAI is currently working on a project to fabricate and install signage on creeks and branches on Smith Lake in Winston County. 33 sites have been identified and each location will have 2 signs, each at a different approach to the slough/creek. Funding is being provided by Northwest Alabama Resource Conservation and Development Council. WCSLAI is most grateful to RC&D and to the Winston County Commission for all their efforts in support of the signage project. Labor to install the signs will be provided by Board members and interested volunteers. Once the signs are in place and various creeks and branches are more identifiable, navigation of the lake in Winston County should be safer and easier for boaters.

We are working with Alabama Water Watch on a watershed improvement program for the Rock Creek Watershed which includes Crooked Creek and White Oak Creek. Our group is assisting with the part of watershed that is in Winston County. This is a very complex project requiring the cooperation of many people from various organizations. We already have involvement of the Winston County Commissioners, ADEM, Mike Henshaw-County Extension agent, Wade Hill-Alabama Soil and Water conservation, Mayors from Arley and Addison and others. We have visited with many of the cattlemen and farmers in the area, who appear to be in favor of this project. The goal is to have the specified area removed from the EPA’s 303D list which designates contamination. The ultimate goal would be to put a program into place that would allow Smith Lake to continue to be known as one of the cleanest lakes in the US.

WCSLAI members are developing a PowerPoint program about the Warrior Watershed, with all pictures having been taken in Winston County. We are seeking funding for a projector and screen to use when presenting this program to the biology, science and FFA classes in all the high schools in Winston County. This program will also be made available for other civic organizations to view. We feel the need for our youngsters and other residents of Winston County to be aware of, and to promote, the importance of the watershed and how its “health” contributes to the economic future of Smith Lake and surrounding areas.

We have sponsored several water testing classes taught by members of Alabama Water Watch from Auburn University and we now have 18 qualified water testers and 15 active water testing sites on Smith Lake in Winston County.

We have participated in the FAWN (Forestry Awareness Now) program for the last 2 years, with 2 of our qualified water testers demonstrating to area youngsters the importance of and the method used in testing the water each month. One question the testers ask is how much water one gallon of used oil could contaminate in Smith Lake. There are all kinds of guesses, but when the answer of 1 million gallons is revealed, the students are quite shocked.

One WCSLAI director is presenting a class on” water” to elementary students. We stress to everyone we meet the value and importance of taking care of the water that we are all so blessed to have in North Alabama.

WCSLAI now has a 24 foot pontoon boat and a 26 foot barge that we can attach and push (both thanks to generous donors), which allows us to promote clean-ups by homeowners in their own immediate areas. They furnish the manpower and we furnish the boat/barge and equipment. 2 locations on the lake allow us to unload Styrofoam anytime and the county will dispose of the Styrofoam for us.

Our mission continues to be securing even more cooperation from additional county, state and government agencies and to educate more residents of the care needed to preserve our own Smith Lake in a pristine condition. Future generations will then be able to enjoy this beautiful lake as we have.

Mission Statement: The mission of Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy is to preserve and protect the environmental quality

of Lewis Smith Lake and its tributaries through education of the public and the promotion and implementation of sound environmental practices.

For further information on how you can do your part, call us. 205-387-9999

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

wonders of water

Hi Everyone,
Happy World Water Day to you! Today is a good opportunity for us to be thankful for the water resources we are blessed with in Alabama and also to remember how important it is to protect and conserve those resources.
I am thankful for people like you who are taking action to protect and conserve our important water resources, and I am thankful for the opportunity to work with you on the Rock Creek Watershed Project. Thanks for all of your hard work!
Here is the link to a short youtube video about water that I thought was interesting:

This is slide show about water bottles passed to me by Laverne Matheson that really made me think about bottle water differently!:

Also, for World Water Day, National Geographic has dedicated this month's issue to water and made it available for free online. Here is the link:
Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rock Creek Watershed Management Project Meeting and Bacteria Blitz

Here are a few upcoming activities that I hope will interest you.

•On April 8th, at 7pm at the Traders and Farmers Bank Building in Addison we will have a Rock Creek Watershed Management Project Meeting. We will be presenting a draft of the Rock Creek Watershed Management Plan, and would really appreciate your help with putting on the finishing touches!

•On April 9th, we will be giving a short presentation of the results of the Bacteria Blitz (over 40 sites sampled on February 5-6th) during the WCSLAI Public Meeting

•In addition, on April 10th, at 9am at the Dodge City Restaurant in Cullman, we will be giving a similar presentation about the results of the February Bacteria Blitz during the Smith Lake Environmental Preservation Committee (SLEPC) Spring Meeting.

•We will have our Spring Bacteria Blitz Friday and Saturday, April 9-10th. Testing materials will be provided by the Global Water Watch (GWW) EPA funded Gulf of Mexico Alliance Project.

•We would like to offer Bacteriological and Water Chemistry Monitoring workshops for certification with Alabama Water Watch on Friday April 9th. We need at least 8-10 participants for the each workshop.

If you need more information or are interested in participating in the monitoring workshops or Bacteria Blitz, please contact Mona Scruggs at (251)282-9998.

Thanks and hope to see you soon!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rock Creek Watershed Meeting and Bacteria Blitz

(Mona Scruggs has written the following post about the last watershed meeting and bacteria testing training. Since WCSLAI helped sponsor this program, I am posting her report here.)

The February 4th, Rock Creek Watershed Management Project meeting was very productive. Quite a few stakeholders participated, despite the terrible weather conditions. During the meeting we reviewed the project goals and also discussed the current progress of the project. Stakeholders provided us with very important information regarding pollution in the Rock Creek Watershed. In addition, we were able to discuss different outreach strategies for getting the greater community involved in the project. All of this valuable information is being processed and we plan on having a draft plan ready within the next month or so.

The Smith Lake Bacteria Blitz and Bacteriological Water Testing Training sessions led by Alabama Water Watch were also successful. Twenty-six volunteers throughout the Smith Lake Watershed were certified as Bacteriological Water Monitors, and about 40 sites were tested for E. coli during the Bacteria Blitz! AWW personnel will report on Blitz results at the upcoming April 9th WCSLAI meeting, and at the April 10th SLEPC meeting.

Thanks to all who helped to organize and participated in these activities!

We are planning another Rock Creek Watershed Meeting as well as Bacteria Blitz for the first part of April. We will keep you posted on dates and times, and hope to see you there!

For more information on this project please contact Mona Scruggs at (251) 282-9998

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Public Meeting

Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc.
April 9, 2010 Public Meeting
6:30 PM, Traders and Farmers Bank meeting room
Double Springs, AL

Welcome guests and dignitaries
Nomination of officers and directors for 2010
Review of clean-ups for 2009
Location and date of upcoming April clean-up
Report on the FAWN program
Report on lake water testing blitz done in February
Report on Signs to be placed on creeks
Report on white beaded styrofoam removal

Guests from Alabama Water Watch and Alabama Power Company
Refreshments will be served

Friday, February 12, 2010

board meeting

Tuesday February 9th.Topics discussed:
Tom Grubbs reported that the grant for purchasing the signs has been approved, Tom will deliver list of names of creeks on Smith lake in Winston County to be made."32"
We have permission from Al. Power to erect signs on their property.We have a document prepared for other property owners to sign giving us permission to erect these signs on their property.These signs will be great for boaters on the lake,we need everyones corporation and help.If you have questions call Tom Grubbs @205-489-3422.
Mary Ann reported that the bacteria blitz was a huge success,waiting for Al.water watch to give us the results of all the tests.Judy is going to be teaching a class on taking care of our water, to each 3rd grade class at Meek School this spring.
LaVerne reported that last weeks Rock Creek watershed meeting on Thursday was poorly attended, bad weather.Had a great many ideas presented, watershed program moving forward, very positive.
Election of Officers and Directors. Up date on wcslai. projects,Rock Creek watershed,and Al.Power will update us on styrofoam removal. Plan to attend this meeting,meet the Officers and Directors of wcslai. and learn what we have done in the past, and are planning for this year, and the future. This is the members assoc. and their/your lake to help us to protect the environment,too keep the water clean forever in the lake

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

board meeting

Proposed Agenda
Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc.
February 9, 2010

Minutes/Treasurers report
Status of Audit Linda

Report on water testing Mary Ann

Signage project grant status Tom

Scholarship introduction Linda/Judy

Public meeting with election of officers for 2010 ALL

Report on Watershed meeting and PP program LaVerne

Update on Watershed class Judy

Location for April Cleanup ALL

Discussion from each director about his/her area
of lake regarding problems/Styrofoam/state of lake ALL

Introduction of assistant John Ledbetter

Potential additional use of our boat LaVerne//All

Other future projects?? ALL

10:00 A.M. Traders and Farmers Bank

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Watershed meeting

Rock Creek Watershed Meeting
Thursday February 4th
Traders & Farmers Bank
7:00 P.M

Sponsored By: Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Inc.
& Al. Water Watch, from Auburn University
For Information, Mona Scruggs 251-282-9998 “Al. Water Watch”
Or LaVerne Matheson 256-747-4422 President “WCSLAI.”
We are looking for people who are interested in seeing Rock Creek Watershed improved to it’s original status like a blue diamond, crystal clean water again. There will be committees meeting at 6:PM.These committees are the Technical or Evaluation/Outreach committees.
We need more people to serve on these committees.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Local Styrofoam Clean-ups

The "Advocacy" now has another location, where we can unload our barge, when a group of local homeowners/property owners want to remove the white styrofoam, floating or sitting on the shore, making their area of the lake, look bad.For the folks living on Brushy,Hog House,Rock House Yellow Creek, Upper Sipsey, have at least 4 people to work on the barge helping to pick up and unload styrofoam, give any of our directors a call, and we will arrange for someone to bring our barge, for your group to use. Our pontoon boat is 24 ft long, the barge we push is 26 ft long. Figure one load per day. Believe me that will be a lot of styrofoam.We also have the tools to use picking up the styrofoam.


We have had people asking ,where can I take the White Styrofoam for disposal. The Advocacy considers the lake in Winston County and Crooked Creek, which is part of the Rock Creek Watershed, as our responsibility to help keep clean. Should you own property in any of this area,and still have styrofoam to remove from your boathouse,need a place to dispose of the Styrofoam CALL JIM KING 256-747-6445]
You must call for instruction on where to deliver the Strofoam but also when to deliver it!!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


The morning of January 6th I was putting feed in one of our bird feeders and I looked toward our Boat house and there were 2 bald eagles , not over 150 feet from me, gliding/flying not over 20 feet above our boat house. What beautiful birds with their white heads and tails. My neighbor David saw one of these eagles the day before. That eagle landed in a tree overlooking the lake. He grabbed his camera and was able to get pictures of that eagle.
I was talking with my friend Warren who lives on White Oak and was telling him about the 2 eagles. Then Warren said” Laverne remember when I told you about seeing otter almost every day when I was fishing, their gone”. He went on to tell me that about a year ago there were some limb-liners fishing in that area. The otter were stealing fish off of their lines, they were cussing these otter for stealing fish. The otter are now gone, we’ll never know where they went.
We are living in paradise, where else can look out of your windows and see and enjoy so much of nature. This lake is such a treasure, for both you and I, but lets share it with natures friends and enjoy the beauty and amusement they give us each year.
These eagles were near the north end of Bailey Bridge on Rock Creek.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Advocacy Board Meeting

We had a board meeting January 12th the first meeting of 2010.We are planning to have a public meeting in April at Double Springs. There will be an election of officers and directors at the public meeting. We are having the meeting in Double Springs allowing our members living in that area, other homeowners, property owners to attend our public meeting. This will allow people to meet us, find out what our mission is and help us take care of Smith Lake.
Mary Ann reported on the current water testing. There will be a blitz bacteria testing on the lake in Winston County on February 6th.All testing equipment will be furnished by Alabama Water Watch, and reading of test results will be completed by AWW. There will be a bacteria testing class available on Friday the 5th. We need your help!!!
Judy and Mary Ann reported on how the kids at the Fawn program in October liked there program
Tom reported that the funding for installing signage on Smith Lake supposedly has been approved. Tom has a current list of all creeks, branches, total count 32. When we start installing these signs we will need some help. Give me a call if you want to help us with the installation of these signs.
We have a 2 day clean-up in April and a 3 day clean-up in June.
Mona is working on the Power Point Watershed Program. There will be more meetings this spring concerning the Rock Creek Watershed Management plans.
There have been 3 localized clean-ups, Rock Creek, White Oak and Crooked Creek. These clean-ups were completed by local homeowners using The “Advocacy boat and Barge”. They pick up only Styrofoam. We have arranged for a place on Rock Creek to unload the Styrofoam, the county hauls it off. We are in the process of finding other places on the lake where we can unload Styrofoam and the county will haul it off. Hopefully when another unloading place is found, there will be homeowners that want to clean up there part of the lake. The “Advocacy boat and Barge is usually available”, it belongs to the Advocacy membership!!
There were many other items discussed. The next board meeting is Feb.9th, 10:00 AM in Arley. The meeting is open to the public.