At their most recent meeting, members of Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club learned the results of their recent fundraising event and how efforts are being made to keep waterways in the Cherokee National Forest clean.
President Andy Anderson said the group’s annual gala raked in an approximate total of $124,000, including $88,000 from ticket sales alone.
This year’s event brought University of South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier to Cleveland to speak to a crowd gathered at the Museum Center at Five Points.
Anderson thanked club members for their involvement in making the event a success. In a lighthearted manner, with him dressed up as a University of South Carolina Gamecocks-themed superhero, he called Rotarians to the front of the room to give them “official feather awards.”
Rotarians Chuck Guy, Kevin Mendel, Cheryl Dunson, Pat Fuller, Jerry Shannon, Reggie Law, Linda Record and Bob Anderson were recognized for what they did to help lead the gala’s planning efforts. However, the club president stressed that many others pitched in as well.
“There’s a ton of people who helped,” Anderson said.
Each summer, the civic group hosts a gala to raise money to continue its community service efforts and donate to local nonprofit organizations. In the fall, the club is set to award checks to local organizations. Past recipients of the funds have included the Salvation Army of Cleveland, Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, The Caring Place, Cleveland/Bradley Keep America Beautiful and others.
Also at the meeting, Rotarians heard from a local employee of the Cherokee National Forest who spoke about water conservation efforts and an educational program in the forest she said is in need of volunteers.
Ali Reddington, a hydrologist for the Cherokee National Forest, stressed the importance of keeping fresh water clean.
According to the statistics she presented, only 3 percent of the water in the world is fresh water free of the sea’s salt. However, she said fresh water is what humans and many animals rely upon for drinking water.
“Fresh water is a really precious resource,” Reddington said.
She explained that water flows in such a way that something done upstream can impact the water downstream.
If a new shopping center and paved roads and parking lots are built, more rainwater flows toward waterways instead of being absorbed into the ground. If a farm uses chemicals on its crops, those chemicals could be washed into the water that people and animals alike rely upon.
As the Cherokee National Forest’s only hydrologist, Reddington said she spend her days educating people about the importance of being mindful of how their actions can impact local waterways.
Reddington cautioned those at the meeting that littering and excessively using things like pesticides and other chemicals can negatively impact the water downstream, and they should care about that because it has an impact on everyone.
She stressed that everyone should have an interest in whether or not the water stays clean. For example, those swimming in a lake want the water to stay clean for the sake of their health, and fisherman want the water to be clean so that there are fish for them to catch. While it does go through purification processes, everyone relies on the water that flows through the area’s ecosystems for drinking.
“We all really want the same thing — clean water,” Reddington said.
Historically, things happening upstream of the Cherokee National Forest’s waterways have had negative impacts on them.
Between the 1880s and the 1930s, trees in what is now the national forest were heavily stripped by timber companies, which left behind abundant soil sediment that was washed into the waters.
In the 1940s, that stopped, and the new trees were planted. However, different problems arose when the area was used for mining and manufacturing to help with World War II home-front war efforts, leading to harmful substances and further soil erosion affecting the water.
“This is really bad news for water quality,” Reddington said.
The national Clean Water Act of 1972, which forest officials enforce today, outlined standards to prevent things like that from happening again. For example, one “best practice” she said forest officials follow is to make sure trees are growing within 50 to 100 feet of water’s edge, because the foliage can “filter” any eroded soil so that it does not immediately contaminate the water.
Reddington often travels and takes measurements to ensure streams, rivers and lakes are as healthy as they need to be.
She routinely measures the sediment, pH, water temperature, nutrient, toxicity and oxygen levels in the waterways to ensure they remain safe for the people who visit them for recreation and the fish and other animals that relay on them to survive. She also consults with anyone building near the forest to ensure that they are aware of how their plans could impact the forest.
Reddington said many visitors to the national forest do not realize their actions can have an impact on the waterways, so she started a program to focus on one particular area that has been impacted by people visiting.
The Citico Conservation Outreach program is an effort that was started to teach people camping in the area the importance of treating well the creek and the wildlife within it.
Citico Creek is a popular camping and fishing site in Cherokee National Forest, she said. However, it is also home to “threatened” and “endangered” fish species.
That paradox has led to campers at times playing in the creek with no regard for the wildlife in it. Reddington said a major problem has been people moving rocks in the creek to build “dams.” Some of the at-risk fish lay their eggs underneath rocks, and moving the rocks can destroy the underwater nests.
The outreach program, which is in its second year, has national forest rangers and volunteers teaching campers to better appreciate the creek’s wildlife in an effort to conserve it.
Reddington and volunteer interns began reaching out to campers by hosting events last year to teach the importance of conserving water and the homes of wildlife.
She said the key to conserving the creek is to teach visitors to the forest to “take ownership” of the forest as theirs to enjoy so they see the need to take good care of it.
National forest staff and volunteers do this by hosting events to talk about wildlife and the importance of water conservation. Providing all the necessary equipment, they also host snorkeling trips in the creek so people can see firsthand the diversity of the fish population there.
Reddington stressed all the different aspects of the program — including the snorkeling trips — are free of charge.
Visitors to the creek can snorkel and explore the areas in and around the creek at any time, but the organized trips during which equipment is provided happen during special events or by group reservations only.
“Everyone is welcome to visit,” she said.
For more information about the program, call 423-476-9742 or visit www.fs.usda.gov/ main/cherokee/home.