Monday, September 28, 2015

JSU Field School: Interview with Renee Simmons Raney

 By: Deanna Jones, JSU Student (2011-2015) 

On September 25, 2015, Renee Simmons Raney, Assistant Director of the JSU Field School, sat down for an interview. We discussed the JSU Field School and some of the local events that are coming up. Renee was the Education Director for the Anniston Museums for 10 years, and has been Assistant Director of the JSU Field School for 12 years. We also talked about the importance of preservation of Alabama’s natural environment.

I read about your education center at Little River Canyon and saw that the JSU Field School has another location as well, can you tell me a little bit about both?

Renee Simmons Raney: Yes, our education corridor spans from what we call “the deepest canyon to the highest mountain in Alabama.” The whole space between Little River Canyon and Cheaha State Park is our outdoor classroom. Within that space, is the highest concentration of nationally protected natural areas in the country.
Little River Canyon is the northern corridor and the Talladega Mountain Field School is the southern part of the corridor. Little River Canyon was funded by NASA through an $8 million dollar congressional appropriation. The Talladega Mountain Center was funded by several partners including the Alabama Department of Transportation and FEMA for the $4 million dollar facility. These are both Jacksonville State University education facilities. 

 I also read that you partner up with US Forest Service (USFS), National Park Service (NPS), Alabama State Parks, and others. Can you tell me about that, and how they assist you?
RSR: We partner with all of them, including the US Fish and Wild Life Service, and not to mention the county and city governments. We span about 8 different counties that we work with in Alabama. We also present around 400 programs a year for around 25,000 people. As far as our actual visitors, like the people who come in to pick up maps and things, we have about 200,000 visitors each year for both centers.

 Wow, that’s a lot of work and people.

RSR: It takes a village. We assist them with their outreach program, and they assist us with our community based education. So it all works beautifully. We like to call it the “web of goodness.”
While doing my research I see that preservation of the environment is a big part of your mission statement. Can you tell me about the importance of preservation?

RSR: Absolutely, it goes from as basic as if you like to breathe, thank a tree. We have to have our natural environment for our own well-being. It’s not just our physical health but our mental and emotional health as well. Statistics have shown, that children who play outside and learn more about nature, actually perform better in their academic work. Environmental education programs, being outside, learning about our cultural history, having hands on art opportunities and having opportunities to play games that are educational really increase children’s academic performances, their mental health and their emotional stability.

You sent me a packet of all the events planned for the rest of the year. You have a lot of things going on up there. Can you tell the readers what to expect out of the events coming up?

RSR: On October 10th the national park is hosting a presentation on the cultural heritage of Little River Canyon.  We have experts coming out in many different fields, they bring their expertise to the public. We often use our faculty from JSU, as well. There are often times people, who don’t have time to take a class but are interested in certain topics and these kinds of programs open up those topics to everyone. These programs are free of charge, easily accessible and they’re always exciting. The material is always fresh and new and meets our mission statements.  The public responds well with these types of programs.
Another program we have on October 10th is our Take a Hike events. It happens every second Saturday of the month. We originally wanted to schedule a hike every Saturday. With that scheduling, we couldn’t meet everyone’s request, so we designated every second Saturday as Take a Hike Day. We have multiple hikes going on all throughout that corridor I mentioned before. On different times, there will be a group hiking the Pinhoti Trail here close to Calhoun and Cleburne County. We’ll have hikes going on up at Cheaha State Park and a hike at Little River Canyon. Each hike is about something different. One might be about waterfalls or plants, and the other might be about just going outside and exploring. We also work with Choccolocco Creek Watershed Alliance, which we offers stream and creek walks, where we talk about how important the watershed and the waterways are as our natural resources.

Where can people go and find out more about the JSU Field Schools and all the events that will be coming up?

RSR: The two best places would be our website. Our calendars are on there, and you can go read more about our missions, our history and our heritage. It pretty much gives you everything you need to know. With social media now being so impactive, liking our Facebook page will be a good way to keep up with us. I’m constantly posting our programs, updates and flyers. If people just clicked on our page and scanned it for a bit, they will learn about a lot of what’s going on throughout our whole 8 county area.

Again, thank you to Renee Simmons Raney for taking the time out of her day to answer some of my question.  To find out more about the JSU Field Schools and their wonderful program be sure to visit their website and Facebook page:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cheaha: A Little Bit of Everything

By: Deanna Jones, JSU Student (2011-2015)

Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.  ~Faith Baldwin, American Family
Devil's Den

Cheaha State Park located in Clay and Cleburne County, Alabama offers their visitors “a little bit of everything”.  The park is surrounded by the Talladega National Forest and is in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains which is named the highest point in Alabama. Cheaha is 2,407 ft. above sea level and got its name from the Creek Indians “Chaha” which means high place. The view of Cheaha can be described as breathtaking and is a place where hikers, bikers, and sightseers go to get their fill of the beautiful scenic Alabama. Cheaha has several trails located throughout the 2,799 acre park. The park houses the Cheaha Trailhead of the Pinhoti Trail, which connects with the Appalachian Trail and accesses the Odum Scout Trail, and the Chinnabee Silent Trail.

ADA Bald Rock Boardwalk Trail is a quarter-mile in length and is located near the Bald Rock Group Lodge. This trail offers a breathtaking view stretching halfway to Birmingham. The end of this trail has a 180 degree observation desk ideal for bird watching.

Bald Rock

The Doug Ghee Accessible Trail which leads to Bald Rock trail is wheelchair assailable. The 1520 ft. walkway had lots of benches to sit and take in the stunning scenery. This trail offers multiple side trails and some of them lead to wilder parts of the park.

Cheaha State Park
The Pulpit Trail is only a half mile long and is a steep decent down from Cheaha Mountain. This trail had a great view of Cheaha Lake and overlooks the Talladega National Forest. The Pulpit rock is a quartzite rock facing where many guests rappel and is great for the ones who don’t mind heights.

Chinnabee Silent Trail got its name because it was built from 1973-76 by the Boy Scout Troop 29 of the Alabama School for the Deaf in Talladega. This trail connect to Lake Chinnabee and the Pinhoti Trail and is 6 miles in length. While hiking or biking this trail you run into a cross section connecting to Devils Den. The Chinnabee Recreation Area houses two popular waterfalls: The Devil’s Den and the Cheaha Falls.

If you’re tempted to go visit Cheaha don’t forget Saturday, September 26th is the Cheaha Chili Cook Off!! Bring your appetites!!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Did you know? Facts about Jacksonville State University Gamecocks

By: Deanna Jones, JSU Student (2011-2015)

“Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret of winning.” – Dennis Watley

The Jacksonville State University Gamecocks most certainly grabbed everyone’s attention with the almost winning game against the Auburn University’s Tigers. Auburn narrowly pulled it out of the bag with a score of 27-20 in overtime. 
If the Gamecocks had won against the top 10 opposing team, it would have been “one of the biggest upsets in CFB history,” but that’s not the first time for JSU playing top ranked teams. JSU has taken on teams including Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Arkansas, Florida, Florida State and five years ago won against Ole Miss with the winning score of 49-48 in double overtime. Though the Gamecocks didn’t win this week, they certainly got everyone’s attention.

Here’s some quick facts to impress your friends with and help you brush up on your JSU Gamecock knowledge:

           1)          Jacksonville State University is located in Jacksonville, Alabama. Jacksonville is located in northeast Alabama and the campus has off-site locations in Fort Payne, Fort McClellan/Anniston, and Gadsden, Alabama.
           2)          JSU started off as a state’s teachers college in 1883. In the 1930s, it changed its name to Jacksonville States Teachers College, and five years later, the college got its first accreditation from the Southern Association of College and Schools. In 1957, it created its first graduate program in elementary education and again changed its name to Jacksonville State College.
3)          In 2008, JSU celebrated its 125th year anniversary!
4)          JSU recently switched over presidents from Dr. William A. Meehan, who started in 1999 and served as the 11th president of the University, to Dr. John M. Beehler, who started on July 1, 2015.
5)          Jacksonville State has six different academic colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Commerce and Business Administration, College of Education and Professional Studies, College of Nursing and Health Services, College of Graduate Studies and College of Liberal Studies.
Now here are some quick facts about the Gamecock Sports!
1992 NCAA Football Champions
1)          JSU’s football field is named the Burgess - Snow field. It was named after the longtime JSU supporter Paul Snow and the former Head Coach Bill Burgess who lead JSU to the 1992 division II Championship.
2)          JSU is the only school in the nation to lay claim to NCAA national titles in football, men's basketball and baseball at the Division
I or Division II levels
3)          The Burgess - Snow stadium has a seating capacity of 24,000.
4)          JSU’s mascot wasn’t always the Gamecocks and the
colors weren’t always red and white. The first teams was the Eagle Owls and their colors were blue and gold.
5)          1947 was when the Fighting Gamecocks took to the field for the
first time.
6)          JSU is also home to Ashley Martin who was the first woman to play and score in a NCAA football game.
7)          JSU’s marching band is named the Marching Southerners. The band currently holds 600+ members. In 2012, the Marching Southerners were invited to London to perform at the New Year’s Day parade.
8)          In 1996, the Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners were invited to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Now you know more about the Gamecocks, so go show some support! Don’t forget to wear your red and white!! GOOOO GAMECOCKS!