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river landscape

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful

Four river clean-up events are designed to spruce up areas not otherwise served by local environmental groups. Want to help? Bring yourself and a willing spirit—boats, bags, gloves and a light lunch will be provided.

Take a boat ride alongside Pickwick Landing State park in West Tennessee, and you’ll be torn. On one side, there’s the park: verdant, pristine and clean. Beautiful. On the other, a craggy shoreline littered with bobbing soda bottles, swirling grocery bags and bits of Styrofoam dancing atop the water. Not so beautiful.

Trash in the river is an unfortunate reality along this little section of shoreline, says Laura Howard, program coordinator for Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, a campaign to raise awareness of litter on the shores of the river and motivate residents of the Valley to come together to pick it up.

Pickwick is one of four areas identified by last year’s Living Lands and Water’s Tennessee River barge tour as especially needy, Howard explains. The others include stretches along the river islands near Decatur, Alabama, Skyranch Airport in Knoxville and Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky. “These are neglected areas that fall just outside the realm of what other river clean-up organizations are doing, and they need a little TLC,” she says.

That’s why Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, a cooperative effort of TVA and Keep Tennessee Beautiful among other partners, is sponsoring a series of clean-up events to target these four areas in early March, just before the spring fill. (“It’s easiest to collect debris this time of year, when more shoreline is exposed,” Howard says.)

Pickwick is a good example of the problem KTRB is trying to address: On one hand you’ve got state park rangers organizing river cleanups, and doing an excellent job. On the other hand—there’s really no one watching after the opposite shore, which is characterized by many natural outcroppings and inlets that naturally collect trash.

Each event will include a light lunch preceding a three-hour litter-collecting tour. Boats will be provided by Living Lands and Waters, life jackets by Dollywood Splash Country and gloves by TVA. All you need to bring to volunteer is a willing spirit and a sturdy pair of shoes.

The hope is that the events will spur local residents to not only get involved but stay involved says Martha Podren, project manager for Partnerships and Strategic Integration for TVA. “TVA is a steward of the Tennessee River, but by no means do we do it alone,” she says. “We depend on partners to keep the river clean, and local people are the ones who are there day after day, year after year. “

Events like Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful help locals invest in their slice of the river, and to understand how it’s connected to the whole. “We all live on and off the water,” Podren says. “Hopefully these events will help people feel a little more linked and realize that there are people up and down the river on the same mission.

Want to get connected and beautify your view? Take action and sign up for a cleanup. Registration is encouraged three days before the event.