Here at Team Green, we love working with local non-profits and other community partners to create high-quality and engaging events that range from free workshops to volunteer opportunities. This week, we sat down with Carolyn Wright, program and event director of Cumberland River Compact, who we partner with on the yearly Cumberland River Dragon Boat Festival. Check out what she had to say about Nashville’s most beloved source of water, and how we can get involved as a city:
“The Compact started in 1997 when environmental advocacy work became the new trendy thing, and a man named Vic Scoggin came along. Legend has it that one of our current board members used to be a private detective,” said Wright. “One day, he was out filming someone polluting the river, and then this crazy guy swam by. He tracked him down, and the man was Vic Scoggin. To help raise environmental awareness for it, he swam the whole length of the Cumberland River. That’s nearly 600 miles.”
Very soon afterwards, Scoggin ended up assembling an environmentally-conscious group of Nashvillians, and thus began Cumberland River Compact.
While the primary mission of Cumberland River Compact is to “enhance the health and enjoyment of the Cumberland River and its tributaries through education, collaboration, and action”, this is by no means a boring feat. Every year The Compact hosts the annual Dragon Boat Festival, which entails teams of organizations, corporations, and individual groups paddling across downtown Nashville’s riverfront in colorful Dragon Boat fashion.
“Team Green has a boat in the race every single year now,” said Wright. “They’re The Team Green Giants and it’s always so great to see them show up all hyped up and dressed as a team with their Green Giant drummer-mascot.”
This event is Cumberland River Compact’s largest fundraiser, and a huge opportunity to get people out on the water. This will be The Compact’s 9th year holding the race, and there are annually over 1,000 paddlers, 50 race teams, and 8 Dragon Boats. Each Dragon Boat holds 20 people, and has a drummer of its own to lead its team forwards with a solid paddling cadence.
Everyone is welcome to come, dress up, bring their kids for a bunch of activities, and be merry. This year’s Dragon Boat race will be on Saturday, September 12th at the East Bank Landing.
To help work towards their ultimate declared mission, Cumberland River Compact breaks their work down into three categories: teaching, protecting, and connecting.
The Compact is all about protecting the Cumberland River through advocacy, and that begins with education. This is especially true as the city of Nashville gains approximately 82 new Nashvillians every day, according to The Ashton Real Estate Group of RE/MAX Elite. With such growth, it is imperative that we proceed accordingly, and teach our younger generations to do so as well.
“It really affects our work here because with that many people coming, we have to have a louder voice,” said Wright. “It’s great for Nashville when we create new infrastructure, but we have to remember and actively live like it. The more people that come, the more that our resources will be stressed.”
A prime event to promote their theme of education is the annual Catfish Rodeo. This is a yearly free festival for kids and families to learn to fish, see some booths, and have some fun with over 1,700 lbs of catfish at Sevier Lake in Shelby Park.
Right next to educating the people who make use of the river, Cumberland River Compact’s most common form of advocacy is the physical protection and up-keeping of the river, its streams, and the surrounding land.
“Team Green adopted a stream!” smiled Wright. “Groups can go online on our website and, through us, can adopt streams. Then, these groups will have their own quarter-mile segments that they can have to clean up and take care of.” Team Green’s adopted section includes a one-mile stretch of Mill Creek near Ezell Road Park and the Mill Creek Greenway, and we’ve done 5 cleanups to date on that section.
Stream adoptions, tree planting, and rain gardening are just a few of the ways that both groups and individuals can get involved and do some of the grunt work that keeps our beloved river clean and healthy.
“After all, we use and drink the water that comes from the Cumberland. Might as well take care of what we have to put in our bodies,” said Wright.
The last, and certainly not least, principle of The Compact is to connect with people while helping others to connect.
Over the years, countless organizations, businesses, and people walking down the street have been able to form partnerships, friendships, traditions, and an overall stronger community for Nashville as a city through the work of Cumberland River Compact.
“To anyone who’s looking to be outside more, or help the community, or do something with their weekend, I definitely say check out our website because everything you could want to know about volunteering will be there,” said Wright. “We have a new recreation map on our website in the resources area. If you’re looking for anything to do around Nashville, check it out!”
– Aziza Cunningham (Lightning 100 Summer Intern)