Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful will host a month of river cleanups on four rivers within the Cherokee National Forest, all of which are tributaries of the Tennessee River. The cleanup series will kick off on Saturday on Watauga Lake and will continue every weekend in February as the series makes its way to the final destination on the Ocoee River near Chattanooga on Feb. 27.
The cleanup series is largely made possible by funding received through the Volkswagen Community Grant Program by Volkswagen of America, Inc., administered by The Conservation Fund.
“It’s always great when you have a company come in and create jobs by opening a plant, but it’s a real win if that company seeks out ways to give back to your community the way that Volkswagen has,” said Kathleen Gibi, executive director for Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful.
The grant allowed KTNRB to purchase equipment to support the use of their 5,000-pound, 25-foot work boat as well as an AmeriCorps position through a local East Tennessee chapter, CAC AmeriCorps.
“This grant will continue to give back well past this river cleanup series thanks to empowering our organization with support equipment so that we can freely host a cleanup at any time and now with additional staffing,” said Ms. Gibi. “We are so grateful to Volkswagen of America, Inc. and to The Conservation Fund for making all of this possible.”
Here’s a schedule of the Cherokee National Forest River Cleanup Series presented by Volkswagen:
CHEROKEE NATIONAL FOREST RIVER CLEANUP SERIES SCHEDULE
Saturday, Feb. 6 | Watauga Lake
Saturday, Feb. 13 | South Holston Lake
Saturday, Feb. 20 | Tellico Lake
Saturday, Feb. 27 | Parksville Lake
Sunday, Feb. 28 | Ocoee River
Originally, the cleanup series was scheduled to be held in 2020, but has been postponed due to COVID-19. Since that time, KTNRB worked to develop a policy for volunteer and staff safety at cleanups held during the pandemic. (KTNRB’s COVID-19 policy can be viewed at www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org/covid).
KTNRB resumed river cleanups in August with a new AmeriCorps member on board after a five-month halt due to quarantine. At that point, Ms. Gibi said the organization was just hoping to meet the record it had set in 2019 with over 48,000 lbs. of trash removed. By the time 2020 came to a close, the organization had worked with over 300 volunteers who removed more than 61,000 lbs. of litter from the Tennessee River and its tributaries.
“It’s a real testimony to the difference public-private partnerships can make for our community,” said Ms. Gibi. “This year, we’ve got our sights set on a goal to remove 100,000 lbs. of trash from our waterways, and it’s all possible because Volkswagen and The Conservation Fund invested in our efforts with their grant.”
Ms. Gibi said that the litter collected in 2020 was a 22 percent increase from their previous 2019 record that they set the year they first put their work boat in the water. Since the organization formed in 2016, KTNRB has rallied 1,700 volunteers to remove 180,000 lbs. of trash.
“Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful and all of its volunteers are outstanding stewards of this beautiful and critical watershed in eastern Tennessee, and we are honored to support the work they do benefiting people, wildlife, recreation and water quality,” said Katie Allen, director of The Conservation Fund's Conservation Leadership Network.
Other supporting sponsors of the cleanup series include the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Keep America Beautiful, and Keep Tennessee Beautiful. To register to volunteer in the Cherokee National Forest River Cleanup Series presented by Volkswageen, visit www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org/CNF.