KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Fifty-one volunteers removed 15,355 pounds of trash from four different rivers within the Cherokee National Forest River this past month.

“Everyone involved can button this project up knowing that we literally made tons of a difference for the Cherokee National Forest, the Tennessee River watershed, and the communities that they
impact,” said Kathleen Gibi, executive director for Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, said. “From
the diverse, stunning beauty we witnessed at each lake, to the passionate effort of our volunteers who removed an impressive amount of litter, to the incredible support from our sponsors and local partners, this series has been an unforgettable, positive experience.”

KTNRB hosted river cleanups at four sites throughout the month of February, collaborating with local Keep America Beautiful affiliates and local governments.

The results:

  • Feb. 6 Watauga Lake of the Watauga River, Elizabethton 3,202 pounds
  • Feb. 13 South Holston Lake of the Holston River, Abingdon, Va., 5,294 pounds
  • Feb. 20 Tellico Lake of the Tellico River, Vonore, 4,852 pounds
  • Feb. 27 Parksville Lake of the Ocoee River, Benton, 2,007 pounds

Among those totals 318 bags of trash, 148 tires, 1,433 pounds of Styrofoam, 215 pounds of random plastic, and 303 pounds of scrap metal were removed.

For comparison, the organization and more than 300 volunteers removed a record 61,000 pounds of litter from the Tennessee River and its tributaries in 2020.

The Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful cleanup series was largely made possible by funding received through the Volkswagen Community Grant Program and administered by The Conservation Fund.

The grant allowed KTNRB to purchase equipment to support the use of their 25-foot work boat as well as an AmeriCorps position through East Tennessee CAC AmeriCorps.

“This grant will continue to give back well past this river cleanup series now that our organization’s empowered with support equipment so that we can easily host a cleanup and with additional staffing,” Gibi said. “This year, we’ve got our sights set on a goal to remove 100,000 pounds of trash from our waterways, and we’re already approaching 30,000 pounds for the year after this series.”

For more information about Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, please visit