TVA Natural Resources Offers Opportunities for Youth to Enjoy Nature’s Treasures
No matter where you are in your life's journey, there's a universal truth: Nothing beats the magic of the great outdoors.
And when you live in the Tennessee Valley region – a world bursting with color, wildlife and adventure – it rings ever true.
Bridge Chattanooga students can attest to it.
Sarah Quattrochi, program director of Bridge Chattanooga, shared that she and her team have plenty of firsthand experience introducing people to the wonders of the area.
The organization specializes in connecting students from Dalewood Middle School and Brainerd High School to the outdoors.
"I think the superpower of Bridge is that we're out in some amazing places in nature,” Quattrochi said. “Whether exploring a waterfall or inside a cave where there are salamanders or looking from a mountaintop down into a beautiful valley, a lot of these kids are experiencing these things for the first time and developing a sense of awe, which leads to a sense of responsibility."
Through grants provided by TVA Natural Resources, Bridge expands access to what many take for granted – a love of the region and connection to the land.
“One of our goals is to ensure equitable access to TVA-managed lands and to identify areas in the region that we should focus on for collaborating toward better access to that public land,” Holly Hoyle, senior specialist with TVA Natural Resources, said.
Bridge provides opportunities to embrace the environment while promoting learning, as well as positive youth and social development through gatherings and afterschool programs.
Most recently, a group of youth celebrated March 4ward, a day that recognizes the life of Ryan Keller, the visionary behind Bridge Chattanooga.
On Ryan's birthday, March 4, Bridge invited community members to Booker T. Washington State Park at Chickamauga Lake for hiking, mountain biking and eating s’mores.
Most importantly, they got to enjoy nature in the company of friends old and new.
"Even if they had nothing in common as a group before, adventure creates a bonding opportunity," Quattrochi said.
And while Quattrochi celebrates Bridge's success in connecting youth with nature, she also knows disparities persist.
“Bridge Chattanooga believes that every person has the right to get outside, to feel safe and welcome to enjoy the benefits of nature,” she said. “We work intentionally with community partners to remove barriers that prevent that access.”
Another organization designed to help advance the opportunities for young Chattanoogans is Lookout Mountain Conservancy.
The organization relies on TVA funding for the Howard School Leadership and Intern Program, which allows 20 high schoolers and six college students to work on a 50-acre park on Saturdays and during school vacations or summer breaks.
As they work to bridge the gap between historically marginalized communities and the outdoors, both organizations have become shining examples that align with TVA’s goal to promote community development, environmental justice and environmental stewardship through partnership and collaboration.
TVA plans to continue funding these programs, with hopes of adding three more to the list in 2023, Suzanne Fisher, senior program manager with TVA Natural Resources, said.
The grants will fund program supplies, tools and stipends.
“The goal is to engage communities and to engage people," Fisher said. "To let them know what is out there.
"We want to them to experience all our Valley has to offer. Our resources, our rivers, our recreational opportunities—it's abundant and world-class."
Explore all the many recreation opportunities on TVA land and water.