Organizations: Georgia River Network
In the late 1990s, parched by one of the worst droughts in its history, Georgia was using 10 percent more water than the national average and several outdoors enthusiasts noticed pollution and runoff clouding their favorite recreation spots. So they formed the Georgia River Network (GRN), an Athens-based nonprofit that covers the state – often by paddle – to educate residents and business owners about ways to restore and conserve the state’s waterways.
“Not to mention pure enjoyment,” says Executive Director April Ingle. “So many people don’t realize how lucky we are to have these beautiful resources close by.”
With more than 150 rivers irrigating the region, from Appalachia to Apalachicola, most of us live or work near moving water. The GRN invites the public on group paddling trips that combine education, water testing and cleanup. “We might tour a hydroelectric facility along the way, or an old, historic mill – whatever features along the way that show how important these waterways are to our economy, drinking water and quality of life,” Ingle says. The anglers alone, she says, account for an annual economic impact of more than $2 billion.
This year, the group is celebrating its 10th paddle trip with an excursion on the Chattahoochee River June 21-27, and it is adding another trip, the Fall Float on the Flint, on Columbus Day weekend.
The organization, with a staff of seven, also holds conferences; helps volunteers start local cleanup groups and develop “water trails”; and works directly with legislators and other agencies to protect this environment with its rich biodiversity of trout, otters and crayfish.
“You are bound to see some memorable sights worth protecting,” Ingle says.