Partnership Receives $10,000 DEI Grant To Engage More Residents With Local Waterways

  • Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Women on Water
Women on Water

River City Company, in partnership with The H20 Life and WaterWays, was awarded a $10,000 grant through the Tennessee RiverLine 2023 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Community Impact Grant program. Late in 2022, the three organizations outlined a plan to engage more Chattanoogans with local waterways including the Chattanooga Creek and the Tennessee River. Chattanooga was one of three Tennessee RiverTowns communities to be awarded a DEI Community Impact Grant from Tennessee RiverLine.

As of this week, the first round of “Women on Water” are set to graduate, local students have gained a better understanding of water quality and how they can improve it within their neighborhoods and residents have been able to connect with the Tennessee River from Ross’s Landing.

"The Tennessee RiverLine DEI Community Impact Grant program helps overcome barriers to river access so that the Tennessee RiverLine can be an inclusive and welcoming space for all. We recognize that socio-economic, cultural and physical factors prevent some residents in river communities from enjoying river recreation,” said Brad Collett, director of Tennessee RiverLine and professor in UT’s Herbert College of Agriculture and College of Architecture and Design. “Funding provided through these grants supports programs and partnerships designed to address barriers to river spaces and experiences and continue building a culture of inclusive outdoor recreation. We are grateful for our community partners and their collaborators doing this important and intentional work."

Shawanna Kendrick, owner of The H2O Life, has been leading the “Women on Water” program for the past eight weeks. As a woman of color, she found that others had a similar fear of engaging with open water and wanted to create a program where people of many backgrounds could come together to connect and reset in a safe space. “From learning about our local water systems to paddling basics, each participant has grown more confident in their abilities and use of Chattanooga’s waterways,” said Ms. Kendrick. “The connections and community created within this group of fearless women is something we hope will last a lifetime.”

In the eight weeks, the women came together for conversation about their fears along with touring the Tennessee Aquarium to learn about the wildlife and the importance of water quality, fully immersing for a float safety class along with testing getting on the water in a boat on the Chickamauga Lake. The program will conclude with a 4-mile paddle down the Tennessee River on Saturday.

“We are so thankful to the many partners who have made Women on Water possible including REI Coop (Chattanooga) for the donation of PFD’s, the staff at the Tennessee Aquarium for the private tour, the Choo-Choo Dive & Aquatic Center for the float safety session, Southern Adventist University Hulsey Wellness Center for use of their pool, the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club and Chattanooga Guided Adventure for their help with on-water sessions and to Outdoor Chattanooga, WaterWays and River City Company for the 4-mile paddle support.”

Ms. Kendrick now has her eyes set on expanding the program to be offered to more women but also to local high school girls.

Coinciding with the timeline of Women on Water, WaterWays, a local non-profit with the mission of empowering kids and their communities to restore the water where they live, work and play, has been working with the South Chattanooga Community Association to engage students at Calvin Donaldson and East Lake Elementary. The elementary students received a series of hands-on classes leading up to field trips where they experienced the joy of being in nature by hiking, exploring life in the creek, and composing stories about a crayfish in Chattanooga Creek.

“We loved working with East Lake Academy with a guided field trip to Enterprise South Nature Park to study biodiversity in nature," said Mary Beth Sutton, executive director of WaterWays. "For kids who have little experience with nature, just getting into the woods can be frightening, but touching a snake or catching a tadpole or dragonfly larva can change the way they see nature."

Additionally, WaterWays has been working with the students in the Howard School environmental classes to build a rain garden on their campus as part of a problem-based learning project. This summer, a group of Howard interns will be maintaining it along with plans to install a second rain garden at Lookout Mountain Conservancy. WaterWays will continue the program into the 2023-2024 school year.

“Through our ONE Riverfront planning session, River City Company heard from the community the importance of being able to connect with the Tennessee River and our local streams,"  said Emily Mack, president and CEO of River City Company. "This grant provided us the opportunity to work with amazing organizations like The H20 Life and WaterWays to create new programs to reach residents who have not been comfortable with our local water systems. While they were working very closely with groups of youth and adults, we wanted to provide the entire community with the opportunity to 'get their feet wet.' In thanks to the City of Chattanooga, floating docks were installed on Ross’s Landing. Residents were seen literally hanging their feet in the water, while others used them to launch their paddle crafts.”

The ONE Riverfront planning process engaged over 2,000 residents with the organization now moving forward to meet the goals outlined in the plan. River City Company will have more information on the next steps in the ONE Riverfront plan by mid-Summer.

To learn more about the 2023 DEI Community Impact Grant awardees, their projects and the Tennessee RiverLine’s commitment to establishing equitable access to river experiences, visit the Tennessee RiverLine News Page.

The Tennessee RiverLine is an initiative of the UT Institute of Agriculture. Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.

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