Ross Miller loves his job. He works for the Cumberland River Compact, a nonprofit organization founded in 1997. Their mission, “… is to enhance the health and enjoyment of the Cumberland River and its tributaries through action, education, and collaboration.” Their main goal is to assure clean and abundant water to all residents who depend on the Cumberland River as their water source. The Cumberland River Compact initiates projects that will address root causes of water pollution – both urban and rural. Projects include low-head dam removal, bank stabilization, removal of paving, and creating a green space that can manage stormwater efficiently and reduce runoff. They teach residents how to conserve their natural areas and schedule activities for volunteers to participate in local projects.
In order to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, Cumberland River Compact planned numerous activities. Earth Day wasn’t enough to support all the planned activities, so they instead planned for Earth Month. However, due to the unfortunate arrival of COVID-19, all activities had to be canceled to keep people safe.
Disappointed that all of his events and activities were canceled, Ross Miller, Stream Coordinator, Cumberland River Compact, came up with three new activities to celebrate Earth Month that he could do alone but that would benefit everyone in the long run. The first was to visit all of the Cumberland basin sites. There are 13 of those located all along the Cumberland River and its tributaries. The second activity was to do a survey for each of the sites listing needed projects including dam removal and bank revitalization. This list will help him plan projects, track them, and coordinate local volunteers for each project. The third goal was to conduct a clean up of each of the sites he visited.
To fulfill his Earth Month activities, Ross traveled 1,300 miles across Tennessee and visited all 13 Cumberland River watersheds. He gathered almost a ton of trash and recycled 58 tires. He photographed the beautiful creeks and streams that are a part of the Cumberland basin to share with other nature lovers and to engage volunteers in maintaining these precious resources. At every basin, he listened to a different chorus of birds — woodpeckers, owls, and many others. These sites are worth preserving and they are ours to enjoy.
Some of the most memorable sites included the rural Pioneer in Campbell County. Cove Lake State Park is adjacent to the watershed. At this state park there is a campground, small walking trails, and a wildlife observation area. Another memorable site is the Cordell Hull Wildlife Management Area located east of Carthage and the junction of Putnam, Smith and Jackson County on Cordell Hull Lake.
Ross was excited about everything he enjoyed on his trek. He stated, “The beauty and sheer diversity of this area were incredible – I didn’t know this is what Tennessee looks like.” Across Tennessee, from swamps and flatlands to the highlands and dense vegetation – there are multiple differences in biodiversity and wildlife density. Many people flock to the most popular areas in order to visit the outdoors. Although beautiful, these locations are also very crowded. A few of the places he visited were very private and had few signs of humans – other sites had a significant amount of litter. Although he wants others to share in visiting these locations, he also hopes they will keep it clean for visitors that follow. Ross encourages others to, “… cherish, love, and experience these sites and lend time to help clean up and assure a better future.”
Ross Miller, Stream Coordinator, Cumberland River Compact is responsible for coordinating cleanups and operating the Tennessee “Adopt-A-Stream” program. He also helps design and build rain gardens. He looks forward to sharing his “to do” list with volunteers in each of the areas he visited. Ross can’t wait to get back out there to work with you to clean and improve your local waterways. He hopes to form partnerships with county residents that would enjoy working together in nature cleaning up illegal dumps, revitalizing creek banks, and removing dams that prevent the natural flow of the creek or stream. Ross can be contacted at (615) 837-1151 ext. 106 or (945) 220-7304. For more information, visit the Cumberland River Compact website at www.CumberlandRiverCompact.org. More photos of