Volunteer in the Tennessee River Valley - A New Year’s Resolution for 2021

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TVA and the Tennessee River Valley Stewardship Council have a commitment to preserve and protect the natural assets while honoring the rich history and heritage of those that call this Valley home. Locals and visitors have many opportunities to volunteer to help protect and conserve the area’s natural resources for future generations to enjoy.

Styrofoam is pulled from Norris Lake during a recent clean-up. (Photo credit: Walt Buttrill)

For those who enjoy getting out in nature and have a passion for conservation, consider becoming a volunteer with TVA.

Making a new year’s resolution is a tradition for many Americans. While the more popular resolution Americans gravitate toward is becoming more physically fit and healthy, volunteer work is a very rewarding activity to consider as a goal in 2021. With the Tennessee River Valley covering over 290,000 acres of public land and 11,000 miles of shoreline, there are many ways to volunteer and to get involved with conservation and cleanup efforts.

Over 650 miles long, the Tennessee River snakes through seven states, playing an integral role in each state’s economy, tourism and quality of life. It is one of the most ecologically important river systems in the country and thousands of visitors make their way to participate in the world-class recreation found throughout the region. To help maintain and protect the valuable resources found in the Tennessee River Valley, there are opportunities that range from archaeology to conservation education and from trail maintenance to fish and wildlife education for individuals, groups and businesses to take part in and instill a legacy of conservation.

“For those who enjoy getting out in nature and have a passion for conservation, consider becoming a volunteer with the Tennessee Valley Authority,” said Julie Graham, spokesperson for the Tennessee River Valley Stewardship Council. “If everyone plays a small role, whether its removing trash and debris from the shorelines or monitoring archaeological sites for vandalism, the work will help retain the natural beauty and recreational assets of the Tennessee River Valley region for future generations to enjoy.”

Every February, staff members along with volunteers come together to clean-up the Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding community. The next Litter Day will take place on February 20, 2021. A volunteer services agreement can be downloaded at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Clarks_River/what_we_do/get_involved.html.

Nestled in the mountains of East Tennessee, Norris Lake is one of the cleanest lakes in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s system and a popular destination for outdoor recreation. The five counties that contain Norris Lake come together to conduct bi-annual cleanups. The first cleanup scheduled in 2021 is set for Saturday, March 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information or to register for the cleanup, call 800-524-3602 or visit http://www.norrislakeproject.com.

There are plenty of opportunities to become involved in the 170,000 acres of forests and open lands, 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline and 500 miles of trails that make up Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Volunteer activities consist of trail maintenance and cleanup, support of special events, monitoring the Elk and Bison Prairie or assisting with administrative work. During the National Public Lands Day and shoreline cleanup events, volunteers remove over a ton of trash from Land Between The Lakes; almost 60% of which is recycled.

The Middle Tennessee Fly Fishers is hosting a cleanup on Elk River on March 20, 2021. The club will provide grabbers to pick up the trash and bags to hold it. Those interested are asked to meet at Woodard’s Market and Deli in Lynchburg, Tenn. at 7:00 a.m. for a bite to eat prior to dispersing to Tims Ford Dam. Membership in the organization is not required to participate in the cleanup. For more information, visit https://www.middletennesseeflyfishers.org/conservation-cleanup.html. To rsvp for the cleanup, visit https://www.middletennesseeflyfishers.org/elk-river-cleanup-rsvp.html.

For those living in Knoxville, the Knox County Parks and Recreation offers a program for its citizens to lend a helping hand. ADOPT-A-PARK is a volunteer program that recruits and trains residents to assist in the general care, supervision and maintenance of neighborhood parks and greenways. For more information, visit https://knoxcounty.org/parks/adoptpark/adopt_a_park.php.

Keep The Shoals Beautiful in northwest Alabama hosts a variety of programs year round for the public to get involved with cleanup efforts including a litter tournament with a $500 grand prize. Litter picked up by volunteers during last year’s event along Pickwick Lake filled 207 trash bags weighing in over 5,000 pounds. For more information, visit http://www.keeptheshoalsbeautiful.org or for the latest updates, follow the organization on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KeepTheShoalsBeautiful.

Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northeast Mississippi, Tishomingo State Park is rich in history and timeless natural beauty. The Friends of Tishomingo State Park have been very active over the years in doing repairs to many of the valuable structures. Volunteers typically meet monthly to plan and organize cleanup projects.

For those who do not make new year’s resolutions, the Martin Luther King Jr. is observed each year as “a day on, not a day off.” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 18, 2021, marks the 26th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy.

For information on additional volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.tva.com/volunteer, or email the volunteer coordinators at volunteer@tva.gov or call the Public Land Information Center at 800-TVA-LAND.

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