June 2014
Outdoor Life

A Natural Beauty

   
 
The Conecuh River cuts through the Renfroe property adding even greater diversity to the land with its sloughs.  

Pike Co. Treasure Forest Association tours the Renfroe Farm, a 3,000-acre private refuge.

The Renfroe "farm," as it is loosely called, could be a Pike County best-kept secret.

Gene and Jana Renfroe could spend early spring afternoons leisurely strolling the quarter-mile walkway across a sparkling pond or an early winter morning "shooting" deer with a Canon as the whitetails feed on the grain fields. The farm could be their hideaway.

 
  Two wagonloads of Pike County Treasure Forest Association members and friends of the forest enjoyed the riding tour of the Renfroe property and the informative presentations by Gene Renfroe at stops along the way.

And, for sure, the 3,000-acre Pike County property could be a best-kept secret, but it is not.

Gene and Jana graciously open their "refuge" to groups of all ages who want to know more about land and forest management, and good stewardship of God’s earth on loan to those who inhabit it.

Just as the Renfroes have opened the gates to their property to school groups who are participating in the Classroom in the Forest programs, so do they open the gates to adults who want to know more and learn more about forest and wildlife management.

 
Gene Renfroe explained how a troubled pond was given new life with the installation of a liner like those used at industrial toxic waste sites.  

The annual meeting of the Pike County Treasure Forest Association was held in April at their property off the Henderson highway.

The two trailer loads of Association members and other friends of the forest who toured the property were "blown away" by the beauty of rural Pike County and what the Renfroes have done to improve and enhance their property.

"What Gene and Jana have done to improve their property is nothing short of amazing," said Carter Sanders, Pike County TFA president. "I don’t know of any better stewards of the land than them."

Gene said his family has been on the property for five generations. He and his wife purchased the land from his mother and it is entrusted to their children and to future generations.

 
  A quarter-mile wooden walkway spans one of the ponds on the Renfroe property. The walkway is ideal for leisurely strolls and for bird watching.

"The original property was 1,600 acres on the east side of the Conecuh River," Gene said. "We now have 3,000 acres with 1,000 acres across the river."

The Renfroes have a mixed forest with both pines and hardwoods. Renfroe said he has an affinity for hardwoods with the exception of sweetgums.

He, laughingly, said he wouldn’t mind if all the sweetgums suddenly disappeared.

"Jana and I are committed to maintaining a hardwood forest along with the pine plantations," he said.

Their commitment to maintaining a hardwood forest was evident as the trailer loads of 40 friends of the forest inched along narrow lanes bordered on both sides by towering hardwoods with limbs that seemed to reach upward and brush clouds from the sky so the sun could filter through.

"You won’t find anything more spectacular than this," Nelda Price said. "And, to think, this is Pike County, Alabama."

The tour of the Renfroe property meandered through the pine plantations and the hardwood groves, snaked around the ponds, through the hill country and the bottomlands, and edged the swamplands of the Conecuh River.

"This property is so diverse," Sanders said. "There are hills and river bottoms and everything in between. The Renfroes manage their property for timber and for wildlife. They have grain fields for the deer and honey spots with pear trees and crabapple trees for small animals and birds. They have considered everything in managing their property."

Renfroe said the property is blessed with wildlife.

"We have plenty of turkey and deer, and we’ve been managing our wildlife actively for about 20 years," he said. "We have several shooting houses and some are two-story. We built them so that hunters with special needs can hunt and have a place to shoot without having to climb ladders."

There are several ponds on the property including a pond with a quarter-mile wooden walkway that is ideal for quiet walks and bird watching, and a pond where trophy bass are being raised.

A troubled pond on the property was given new life with the installation of a liner like those used at industrial toxic waste sites, Renfroe said.

"One really unique feature of the Renfroe property is the green tree reservoir," Sanders said. "This area has a mammoth dam where the water can be regulated in one-foot increments. The land can be flooded in October for a duck pond and the water can be drawn out in March and will be a dove field in September."

Carla Rice, a friend of the forest, was impressed by the uniqueness of the property.

"If I had not known better, I would have thought that I was in a national wildlife park," she said. "There are thick forests with towering hardwoods, swampy areas with huge cypress knees, grasslands and beautiful ponds. The tour was totally unique. I don’t know of any other place around here that is as diverse as this. It is awesome. Breathtaking."

Keith Roling, a TFA member, agreed that it is amazing what the Renfroes have done to improve their property.

"The Renfroe property could easily be a state park," he said. "This property is as diverse and as beautiful as property that has been set aside for public viewing."

Roling said he joined others on the tour in expressing appreciation to the Renfroes for "sharing this wonderful place with us and for being such dedicated stewards of the land."

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.