Gift Shop Sales Helping Preserve A Piece of Little River Canyon


Fresh Water Land Trust staff and JSU Field School Asst. Director Rebekah Taylor inspect the view from the acquired property on the East Rim of Little River Canyon.

It was decades ago, after Little River Canyon National Preserve had been established through Congress with authorization from President George H.W. Bush, that the problem became clear.

Jacksonville State University (Jax State) Canyon Center Director Pete Conroy remembers the sound of a backhoe clearing land directly across from the Canyon View pullover on Highway 176 in Fort Payne. Soon a large house was constructed, and Conroy remembered the public’s reaction. “When students were dropped off to see the Canyon, their focus became the big house instead of the river, soaring vultures or cliffs. Then real estate agents were seeing dollar signs and visitors from around the world would ask, ‘What’s that big house doing over there?’”

Although nearly 15,000 acres were already protected by the National Park Service as the Little River Canyon National Preserve, the public-private boundary along the east rim allowed for construction. Thankfully Jax State partner organizations The Conservation Fund and the Alabama Nature Conservancy came to the rescue. They worked tirelessly to preserve the rim before more homes were built. These conservation organizations protected much of the rim, but neither had the intent to own the rim land forever. And that’s when Conroy received a call from The Conservation Fund.

“We weren’t able to transfer the land over to the National Park Service because of some technical restrictions, so I thought that Jacksonville State University might want to be a partner,” said Andrew Schock, The Conservation Fund’s vice president and regional director.

The concept was discussed by Jax State’s Board of Trustees, and President Don Killingsworth signed off to accept the donation for preservation. After a year of deliberation and assessment, two important parcels were transferred to Jax State and the Canyon Center. Despite this being a donation, there was a need for legal work and the enactment of a conservation easement, work that added up to around $20,000.  

“All of this cost has been covered by revenue generated in our gift shop,” said Conroy. “Anna Lindsey-Brown has done a great job establishing our store into a well-respected, unique place to shop.

“We are thrilled to have our revenue go to land conservation and we definitely want our customers to know that their purchases really matter!” said Brown. 

The announcement was made on Friday to kick off the National Park Service and Canyon Center Field School’s Annual Bio Blitz program, where biologists come from around the state to assess and catalogue the various species in the area.

“We’ve been responsible for some development up here, and it only seems right that we also support the conservation of our primary resource, our beautiful Little River Canyon,” Conroy said during the event.

For more information, please contact: 

Pete Conroy, Director
JSU Canyon Center