This is a bit out of the ordinary for this blog. To get where we are going with this post, the story starts high above the banks of the Tennessee River. Very high. So high, in fact, it is lovingly referred to as the “nose bleed” section of Neyland Stadium. This particular portion is on the southern end of the stadium, poised high in the sky and generally reserved for the fans wearing the wrong color. This is where I generally sit for my every-other year game. It was at just such a game in 1990 that our story begins.
First, there were the curses hurled in our direction from what I could only assume were drunken students as we walked to the game. Our group included my seven-year-old daughter and I was not amused. Once we entered the stadium and the game began, the abuse moved to the field. There was hope until the second half kick-off and then Dale Carter meandered his way toward the south end zone securing a victory for the home crowd.
I don’t even want to talk about it.
Then the rains came. Not simply a shower or even a passing storm. This was a downpour of Biblical proportions. One could guess that God was not happy, but 100,000 Vol fans certainly were. By the time the game was over, UT had won 45-3. My party left early only to endure more chants of an obscene sort and to wade precariously and dejectedly back to our cars.
So why would I bring this up now? What could this have to do with a downtown blog over twenty years later? Well, sometime in the second half, sometime after the on-the-field pain was simply too much to bear, my friend and I looked over the southern end of the stadium toward the Tennessee River. Did it pass through our minds that a better fate might await us if we jumped? Would the crowd have cheered if we had? No friends, what we saw was much more important and brings us to our topic today: Massive, unfiltered, completely contaminated oceans of runoff from downtown spewing its venom into the Tennessee River.
One of my companions that day was my friend DeWayne, who may not remember this conversation, though I am certain he remembers the day. DeWayne is an engineer from the state of Florida and is certainly no bleeding-heart environmentalist. DeWayne is, God love him, about a hundred thousand miles to my right on any issue you might name. He was disgusted at what he saw as we peered over the edge into the abyss. He assured me the state of Florida would never allow that kind of runoff to contaminate a river.
It was the first time I realized that oils from cars and all kinds of surface contaminants poison our waterways. It was the first time I heard the words “retention pond.” I later learned that some boat owners do not like to put their boats in the river because they have to clean the oil off the hulls after an excursion. I didn’t know very much about the problem and I’m not sure I’m more knowledgeable now, but I’ve been much more aware since that day. I only thought the most important thing for me happened on the field.
So, here we are twenty years later. Knoxville has hopefully come a long way since then in dealing with such issues. I have a feeling we have a long way to go, yet. There is a group dedicated to improving our water quality and they host a number of good events. Parci, one of my faithful readers, has e-mailed me several times requesting a plug for the cause. I think it is an important one.
River rescue cleans streams, rivers and shorelines.
The Knox County Water Quality Forum sponsors a number of events all designed to clean up our waterways, small and large. They are the folks who bring us the River Rescue events. That was the only event I had personally tuned into before Parci began to ever-so-gently enlighten me.
It turns out they sponsor a number of events including one next week which examines creative – yes, even artistic – ways to use trash! It happens at the Bearden branch of the public library. You can read about it at the link above. Soon they will sponsor another major event that will happen right here in downtown. It’s called the Rainy Day Brush Off and I’ve promised Parci I will pass the word along as it nears. Something tells me she won’t let me forget!