Macknally Land Design assisted the architects in designing a master plan for the Junior League of Birmingham — Hugh Kaul Children's Zoo. A concept promoting sustainability of natural resources through design was developed by the design team. This five acre site within the Birmingham Zoo is reflective of the five physiographic regions of Alabama and their bio-diversity and their impact on the development of urban, rural, and wild communities. Visitors move through the regions of the Highland Rim, Cumberland Plateau, Valley and Ridge, Piedmont and Coastal Plain, experiencing vegetation that is indigenous to its respective region. The Children's Zoo is one of the few built projects of this magnitude in the state with such a level of diversity in native plant material.MORE »
In the 'urban' areas, also known as the Commons, a large dining area and play area are nestled between a backyard garden setting and the start of the Alabama regions transition. From the buildings, stormwater from the roof is collected cisterns and used for irrigation. The rock formations of the "mountain" and fish habitat are designed to represent those found in the Valley Ridge Region of Central Alabama and are incorporated into the playground. Children enjoy playing in the dancing water jets and riding the custom designed carousel. Moving into the rural area of the site, visitors interact with farm animals and can take a rest on the Backporch or take a stroll through the vegetable garden.
Alabama Wilds is the third element of the Children's Zoo. A Discovery Trail and animal exhibits are integrated into the existing forested portion of the site. Great care was taken to preserve native vegetation such as Sassafrass, May Apple patches, Buckeye and more. This path leads visitors by turkey, eagle, bobcat, snake exhibits, and a rustic cabin before opening up to a clearing which reveals the Otter Exhibit. As the primary feature of the Wilds, the Otter Exhibit is a created rock formation with a waterfall that anchors the edge of Sunrise Pond and a created wetland area. Sunrise Pond was created by diverting storm water from an existing storm flume and redirecting it to a low area. The water level is controlled by a weir and overflow valve which are hidden within a constructed beaver dam. An existing spring that also feeds the pond undulates through a created wetland planted with a variety of indigenous grasses & perennials such as Bushy Bluestem, Juncas, Switch Grass, Rose Mallow, Swamp Sunflower, and a Pitcher Plant bog before it spills into the lake. A boardwalk leads you away from the Otter Exhibit, around the pond, through the lowland woods and past the Sandhill Cranes before delivering visitors back to the Commons Area.