Tennessee River Tour Kicks Off in Knoxville

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email
News item

Tennessee River Tour Kicks Off in Knoxville

Posted: 04/09/2015
The nationally recognized Living Lands and Waters barge is docked at Volunteer Landing April 8-15, 2015, as part of the Tennessee River Tour, an initiative to help clean up the Tennessee River and raise water quality awareness through stops at eight cities (six ports) in three states.
The Tennessee River Tour will visit the following ports of call:

Knoxville, Tennessee
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Huntsville/Decatur, Alabama
Muscle Shoals/Florence, Alabama
Paris, Tennessee
Paducah, Kentucky

Chad Pregracke, Living Lands and Waters founder and president, as well as 2013 “CNN Hero of the Year,” will be bringing some of his Living Lands and Waters staff and fleet to the Tennessee River for the first time. Since its founding in 1998, his organization has helped clean waterways in dozens of towns along 23 rivers in 20 states. 

Knoxville is home to the headwaters of the Tennessee River, making it the natural kickoff city for the two-month tour. 

“It is fitting that this first-ever Tennessee River Tour will start in Knoxville, where the Tennessee River begins,” said City of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. “Thanks to Chad and his team for coming here! Living Lands and Waters has been a great champion for water quality throughout our country, and this collaboration will help raise awareness of the need to protect our rivers and streams.” 

In Knoxville, the Tennessee River Tour will be a weeklong series of events including Ijams Nature Center’s 26th annual River Rescue, which removes approximately 8 tons of trash in a one-day event, as well as tree plantings, youth education workshops, and events open to the public to promote local nonprofits that work year-round to advocate and improve our waterways. (Schedule below.)

“We’re excited because it’s a new river for us and one of the most beautiful in the country!” Pregracke said. “The City of Knoxville and Knoxvillians in general have stood out as flagbearers of Southern hospitality, and they have worked hard to make the most of our time while we’re here. We look forward to joining all the great people in Knoxville over this next week, working together to do great things for the river.”


1. Ijams River Rescue

The week in Knoxville is centered around the 26th Annual Ijams River Rescue, which will be held on Saturday, April 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. On average, the River Rescue has 1,000 volunteers each year, covering 30 cleanup sites along Knoxville’s creek and river banks. 
The event this year is expected to be increased with Living Lands and Waters (LLW) providing additional equipment and staff. For example, five LLW boats capable of commercial fishing will supplement trash hauling.

Most significantly, all of the trash collected during the River Rescue will be transported to the barge where it will be displayed for the public to view collectively for the first time ever.

“Having Living Lands & Water come to Knoxville to work hand-in-hand with us on River Rescue is truly inspiring and will broaden the spotlight on the importance of protecting our local water ways and incredible natural resources,” said Paul James, Executive Director of Ijams Nature Center.

When the Tennessee River Tour ends in Paducah, Ky., in June, trash collected from all eight cities will be carried and displayed on the barge.

2. Open House Barge Tours, giveaway of 500 trees, Tennessee River Expo
The public will have access to tour the barge for free on Volunteer Landing on Sunday, April 12, from 1-4 pm.
The Living Lands and Waters barge actually comprises four barges: one for carrying the trash, one for sorting recyclables (85 percent of what Living Lands and Waters removes at cleanups is recycled), a “floating classroom” where water quality education workshops are held, and full solar-powered living quarters used to house the staff when they are away at long-distance cleanups. 

The barge tour will include distribution of 500 trees to the first visitors. The trees are grown at the Living Lands and Waters “Million Trees Project” Farm, ranging from 3 to 5 feet in height.
Concurrent with the Open House, there will also be a “Tennessee River Expo” on Volunteer Landing with information from local groups that work to improve our waterways, many of whom participated in the Knoxville Tennessee River Tour committee.

3. Planting of 2,500 Trees
The City of Knoxville’s Urban Forester has worked with Living Lands and Waters to select five sites across Knoxville to plant trees, helping stabilize creek and river banks. Volunteers will first remove invasive exotic plants, and then will plant 500 trees at each of the following sites:

Wednesday, April 8, 1-4 p.m. Ijams Nature Center
Thursday, April 9, 1-4 p.m. Third Creek Greenway @ Tobler Lane
Friday, April 10, 1-4 p.m. Williams Creek @ Lay Avenue
Monday, April 13, 1-4 p.m. Adair Park & Greenway
Tuesday, April 14, 1-4 p.m. James White Greenway 

The trees are provided by Living Lands and Waters, most having been grown at their “Million Trees” Project Farm. The trees range from 3 to 5 feet tall and are bare root.

4. Water Quality Education Classes
The Tennessee Valley Authority says the high school water quality education classes offered by Living Lands and Waters are what drew them to sponsor the entire Tennessee River Tour, contributing $150,000, making them the tour’s largest sponsor. 

“Educating the next generation of citizens and leaders is a high priority for TVA’s environmental stewardship program and directly supports our mission of service to the Tennessee Valley,” said Rebecca Tolene, vice president of TVA’s Natural Resources. “Programs that immerse the students in understanding the value of water help them also learn to love natural resources, and we protect the things we love.”

The following high schools will take a field trip to the “floating classroom” on the barge docked at Volunteer Landing:

Wednesday, April 9, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Oliver Springs
Thursday, April 10, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Fulton
Monday, April 13, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Austin-East Magnet
Tuesday, April 14, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Carter
Wednesday, April 15, 9 a.m.-2 pm. L&N STEM

5. Social Fundraiser Events to Benefit Nonprofits 
As a push to raise awareness and funds for nonprofit organizations that devote their efforts daily to improving Knoxville’s waterways, local businesses have scheduled “Pint Nites” open to the public in which a portion of sales will go toward these groups. The Pint Nite schedule is as follows:

April 10, 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Scruffy City Hall (Legacy Parks Foundation)
April 11, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Ijams Nature Center (Ijams River Rangers -- presented by River Sports Outfitters)
April 14, 5 p.m.-midnight Bearden Beer Market (Keep Knoxville Beautiful)

Keep Knoxville Beautiful has worked with Living Lands and Waters before, and Keep Tennessee Beautiful is one of the major sponsors of the Tennessee River Tour, contributing $50,000 to the project. In fact, it was at a Keep Tennessee Beautiful State Conference that City of Knoxville staff met Chad Pregracke and the idea was conceived to host a Tennessee River Tour.

Keep Tennessee Beautiful Executive Director Missy Marshall said, “We jumped at the opportunity to partner with Living Lands and Water, TVA and Ijams to fight the ongoing battle of waterway litter. The Tennessee River’s strength begins in Knoxville, so it’s only natural that this movement begins in the Volunteer State. Last year alone, our state collected over 4 million pounds of litter, which included the cleaning of over 249 miles of Tennessee shores. Our efforts with this project will expand upon past efforts, and also improve overall water quality of all impacted by the long reach of the Tennessee River in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee.”  

6. Tennessee River Tour Speaker Series
Stephen Lyn Bales, Senior Naturalist at Ijams Nature Center, will speak in the Living Lands and Waters floating classroom on the barge at Volunteer Landing, at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 13. His lecture will cover wildlife species that are now returning to the Tennessee River as the river’s health and ecology continues to improve following decades of concerted efforts. 
The event is free and open to the public but space is limited, and will be open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The Tennessee River Tour’s primary sponsors are the Tennessee Valley Authority, Keep Tennessee Beautiful, Tennessee Valley Towing and Southern Shores. Knoxville’s portion of the tour is being organized by a committee of representatives from the City of Knoxville, Ijams Nature Center, Legacy Parks Foundation, TVA, Keep Knoxville Beautiful, Keep Blount Beautiful, the University of Tennessee, Knox County Stormwater, the Tennessee Izaak Walton League, Visit Knoxville, Public Building Authority, the Knoxville Chamber and the Water Quality Forum.

For further information on the Tennessee River Tour, please visit www.TennesseeRiverTour.org.