Picking up trash might not sound like a good time, but hundreds of volunteers join forces each year to clean up the Tennessee River during Ijams River Rescue, and it’s clear from their smiles that they enjoy it.
This year celebrates the 29th annual Ijams River Rescue, presented by Dow Chemical Company and TVA. The event, which draws between 600-1000 volunteers each year and removes between 10-14 tons of trash from the river’s shorelines and its tributary creeks, is scheduled for Saturday, April 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Ijams Nature Center would like to add more cleanup sites this year to have an even bigger impact, but to do that, Ijams needs to add about 40 more volunteer site captains to its roster.
“The more site captains we have, the more areas we can target,” said Ijams Volunteer Coordinator Lauren Bird. “Site captains keep each site running smoothly and help us address any issues that may arise.”
A site captain’s duties range from checking in volunteers and going over safety procedures to handing out snacks and completing a brief cleanup report. There are at least two site captains at each location. These volunteers are required to attend a brief training session prior to the event. Training will be offered on a few different dates to ensure everyone can participate.
“In 2017, about 700 volunteers removed 11.5 tons of garbage from 35 sites starting above the river’s headwaters and ending at Fort Loudoun Dam in Loudon County,” she said. “When River Rescue started, some of these locations were in terrible shape. Waste had been collecting for years and volunteers were finding couches, televisions and other large items.”
As cleanups have continued, Bird said they have seen fewer big items at these locations, and while volunteers still find plenty of trash and debris, these areas take less time to clean so they need fewer volunteers.
“Adding site captains will allow us to address sites we haven’t been able to get to in a couple of years and focus on new areas,” Bird said. “A site captain’s work isn’t terribly strenuous or hard, but they determine how many sites we can care for. If you have a friend, spouse or partner, you can volunteer as co-captains, which will make it more fun.”
For details about Ijams River Rescue or to volunteer to be a site captain, contact Lauren Bird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-577-4717, ext. 135. A general call for volunteers will be issued at a later date.
Ijams Nature Center is a nonprofit, 315-acre educational nature center for all ages, abilities, and walks of life. Located just three miles from downtown Knoxville, Ijams features 12 miles of hiking and mixed-use trails, a public access river dock, swimming, boating, biking, and more. The Ijams grounds and trails are open every day from 8:00 a.m. until dusk. The Visitor Center is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.Ijams.org or call 865-577-4717.