Some of Mobile’s most ecologically diverse areas are tucked away beyond the buffers of some of its most urban communities — hidden marshlands, rich with plant and animal life, in areas throughout the Three Mile Creek watershed.
In a restoration economy like the one developing locally from a steady trickle of BP oil spill money, wetland areas like these can have a financial value as well. Yet many believe there is a disconnect between that ecosystem and the residents who live only a few feet away.
Now, a multifaceted grant program is working to connect young adults from predominantly African-American neighborhoods to the ecosystem and the potential economy quietly growing in their own backyards.
“Through the Gulf [RESTORE Act], there are going to be numerous jobs and career opportunities, but unfortunately many African-Americans and minorities in low-income communities just aren’t being exposed to those,” Michael Pierce, executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue Redevelopment Corporation, said. “We wanted to get involved to show them the value of those things, which is something that’s never been done.”
When MLKARC began kicking around those ideas with staff at the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, they identified a number of unmet needs in those communities. More importantly, they potentially identified a common solution.
Young people need to be better connected to environmental assets in their own neighborhoods, they need to develop marketable employment skills and, in some cases, they just need a job. Thus, the Coastal Alabama Conservation and Resiliency Corps was born.