Jennifer Yates with the Choccolocco Creek Watershed

What is the Choccolocco Creek Watershed?
The Choccolocco Creek Watershed (CCW) is a non-profit organization supporting area projects that improve the quality of life for our communities by promoting recreational and outdoor activities while protecting our natural areas and water quality.

What programs are you currently developing for your staff and volunteers?
Currently, we are working to implement a Master Watershed Steward (MWS) program. This program will allow watershed volunteers to lead their communities in promoting healthy watersheds. The program will increase awareness, understanding, and knowledge about the function of watershed areas, potential impairments, and protection strategies.

These volunteer stewards can help reduce the negative impacts of land-use practices and pollutants while planning effectively for the future of the watershed. This program is designed for anyone with a willingness to learn about and protect watersheds in our community. Example volunteer steward projects include:
• Coordinating and conducting stream clean-ups
• Organizing educational events such as rain barrel workshops and backyard conservation plans
• Working with municipal and county officials on stormwater issues
• Teaching adults and children about nature and our environment
• Planning and carrying out habitat improvement projects

What community involvement projects is the watershed currently a part of, specifically in Oxford? What projects are coming up?
The Choccolocco Kayak center is one of the most recent projects that we have completed. We partnered with the City of Oxford to open the center, and it is an excellent recreational venture for the casual paddler.

We are working on several new projects, including a Choccolocco Nature Center and Arboretum. The CCW is currently working on the plan and researching grant funds to help build the nature center. The plan will incorporate interpretive trails designed to educate the community about nature, conservation, and the environment. We want the nature center and arboretum to be the area conservation hub that promotes a love of environmental literacy and serves as a nature-based center for community activity.

How does the watershed educate community members about the ecological significance of Choccolocco Creek?
Each year the CCW holds several workshops and seminars regarding current watershed projects, conservation practices, and information about cost assistance programs that help to protect lands through conservation management plans. We host a Choccolocco Creek Watershed Conference in the fall each year with various speakers that present an array of topics including the health of the creek, forestry and wildlife, and land use impacts.

Talk about how important it is to protect the natural resources within the watershed.
Protecting the natural resources in any watershed is necessary to maintain the health and well-being of all living things, both now and in the future, and is essential for maintaining community sustainability. Watersheds are simply areas of land; therefore, you take care of your watershed by being a good steward of the land resources.

Backyard conservation helps to increase food and shelter for birds and other wildlife, control soil erosion, reduce sediment in waterways, conserve water and improve water quality, and beautify the landscape.

Backyard conservation practices include:
• Water Conservation
• Planting for Wildlife Habitat
• Mulching
• Composting
• Nutrient Management
• Pest Management
• Terracing
• Tree Planting

The wise use of water for lawn and garden not only helps to protect the environment but also saves money and provides for optimum growing conditions. Simple ways of reducing the amount of water used at home include mulching, adding organic matter to the soil, and growing plants adapted for dry weather.

Early morning watering before the sun is most intense helps reduce the water lost from evaporation. Installing and using rain barrels for collecting water from downspouts also helps with the reuse of water.

Clean, healthy watersheds depend on an informed public to make the right decisions when it comes to the environment and actions by the community.

What is something unique someone might not know about the Choccolocco Creek Watershed?
Choccolocco Creek drains approximately 376 square miles of land in Calhoun, Talladega, Cleburne, and Clay Counties, and spans approximately 246,000 acres. The headwaters originate in the Talladega National Forest and flows southwesterly to its point of confluence with Lake Logan Martin.

Choccolocco Creek is a significant tributary to the Coosa River and is home to some 70 different species of fish. Several of which are threatened or endangered, including the holiday darter, pygmy sculpin, and blue shiner.

Choccolocco Creek is the most diverse major tributary in Alabama for gastropods (snails, clams, mussels). It accounts for 22% of the freshwater fish species in the State of Alabama while occupying less than 1% of land area in the state. These ecological resources partnered with recreational values make Choccolocco Creek a crucial resource to protect.

NJCAA welcome

The City of Oxford, along with Choccolocco Park, is excited to announce the arrival of the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Division I and Division II Softball National Championships for the years 2021-2024. Being awarded the NJCAA Softball National Championship bid means a great deal to our city. Recruiting tournaments like this bring economic growth to the area and add to our residents’ quality of life.

The tournament will bring 16 teams from 16 regions across the nation. We are proud to have a facility capable of hosting a national championship and grateful to our city leadership, staff, and patrons who have contributed to the park’s success and national recognition. Oxford Parks and Recreation Director Don Hudson said, “We are very proud to host the NJCAA staff and teams for the National Championships and look forward to the opportunity.”

Dean Myrick, Alabama Community College Conference Commissioner, said, “I am thrilled and excited that Oxford and Choccolocco Park were awarded the NJCAA DI and DII National Softball Championships over the next four years. I want to thank Mayor Craft, Don Hudson, and their awesome staff for everything they did in submitting the first-class bid. The facilities at Choccolocco Park were second to none. I am also excited that the state of Alabama and Oxford will be showcased through NJCAA athletics. The teams, student-athletes, and fans alike will be amazed when they arrive. This will be a great event for many years. I look forward to working with the great people of Oxford and Choccolocco Park in the future.”

We look forward to welcoming all patrons to Choccolocco Park for the NJCAA National Championship starting in 2021.

Dates of tournament:

2021: May 26-29, 2021 (D-II)

2022: May 25-28, 2022 (D-II)

2023: May 24-27, 2023 (D-I)

2024: May 22-25, 2024 (D-I)