If you think a post-industrial property near downtown has little to offer in the way of biodiversity, think again. The area’s original forests were cleared in the 19th century, but after the furnace closed, plant and animal species began to return. At the margins of the property, small patches of trees provide cover for wildlife and reduce erosion. These plants are also helping clean the solids of the heavy metals and other residues left behind by the furnace. This process – called phytoremediation – is making the soil more fertile and creating a cleaner environment for future generations. In fact, plants are so eager to grow back that keeping them from overtaking the historic buildings and equipment is a constant challenge!
Around Sloss, ponds, basins and spots where the groundwater bubbles up from below provide homes for turtles, frogs and fish. The springs of Jones Valley would have been the focal points for wildlife activity. There is even a species of small, colorful fish called the watercress darter, which can only be found in four such springs within Jefferson County. In addition, the underground caves, streams and sinkholes that make up a terrain called karst support a high number of plant and animal species because of the many habitats it provides.