Harpeth Conservancy’s River Stewards Awards event is a night of celebration that recognizes the exceptional efforts of volunteers and community leaders of all ages who have made a big difference for clean water and healthy ecosystems for rivers in Tennessee. Harpeth Conservancy staff selects River Steward awardees who embody the spirit of our “Don’t Be Crappie. Be River Responsible!” campaign and have been vital to the success of our collective work, including our Waterway Flood Recovery Project, Harpeth River Blueway Project, Water Quality Improvement Program, and Restoration Program.
2022 River Steward Awards
Policy & Advocacy Awards
Community Advocate: Kathy Webber
Kathy Webber has been devoted to growth and planning work in Franklin and Williamson County for nearly 20 years. Kathy is a founding steering committee for Keep Williamson Livable, a citizen advocacy group focused on engaging with community leadership on land use and development planning. The group was so valuable in informing citizens across the county about the significant effort by Williamson County to update its comprehensive land use plan that was adopted right as the pandemic hit. Kathy has been engaged in development issues in Franklin – working with staff and citizens to provide relevant information to decision makers and organizing attendance and effective public engagement at planning commissions and the Franklin Board of Mayor and Alderman and Williamson County Commission meetings. Kathy was a key community advocate, providing her thoughtful, balanced, and steadfast energy that ultimately led to the April 2022 denial by the city of Franklin of the proposed high density residential development proposal on Brownland Farm in a highly flood prone area of the Harpeth River. In a message to Kathy Webber, Outgoing City of Franklin Alderman, Dana McLendon, said it well: “I have observed you (Kathy Webber) to be a passionate but fair critic of the actions with which you disagreed. You know more about the process and substance of city government and our agenda items than almost everyone else in the room. Your civic involvement is a model for others.”
#BeRiverResponsible Governance: Matt Brown (City of Franklin Alderman, Ward 2)
City of Franklin Alderman, Matt Brown, was elected to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) in the fall of 2021. He campaigned on the promise of Preserving and Protecting Franklin – a sentiment that resonated with Franklin residents. One significant concern of the community was the proposed rezoning and high-density residential development of Brownland Farm. The proposed development would sit in a unique bend in the Harpeth River, where rising waters during major floods would cut off access to the property. The development also proposed significant alteration to the floodplain, which created concern for many residents already significantly impacted by previous floods in the area. The Brownland rezoning and development proposal had been in motion for a couple of years prior to Matt Brown’s election and seemed to be on its way to approval under the previous BOMA. Knowing this was a critical issue for his constituents, whom he committed to represent, Matt invested significant time with residents, city staff, and the experts at Harpeth Conservancy to fully understand the concerns and complexities of the development. Alderman Matt Brown maintained a balanced approach to both honor the property owner’s rights and that of the safety of the community as he deliberated and worked with concerned citizens and community leaders to determine the most appropriate decision. On behalf of the citizens of Franklin, Matt focused his efforts on denying the rezoning proposal. His leadership throughout the process ultimately contributed to a unanimous defeat of the proposed development.
Intern of the Year: Sean Ramey
Sean Ramey is a Belmont University Law student. Sean started his internship with our Clean Water Protection program last summer. After a summer of cultivating mutual respect, he decided to stay on for an additional semester with us this fall! We’re so lucky to have him! Sean’s science background gives him a unique perspective when it comes to environmental law; he understands the importance of conservation science and its role in informing responsible policy at the local, state, and federal levels. Sean has been instrumental in pushing forward our policy mission to uphold the Clean Water Act in Tennessee! Grace Stranch, our COO of Conservation and Policy and Sean’s supervisor, says this about Sean: “Sean goes above and beyond. He volunteers at outreach events, he is the first to arrive to meetings and often the last to leave, and has worked over 400 hours as a reliable and passionate team member. Sean is a true clean water advocate! We can’t wait to see how his passion unfolds in his career and future studies!” Thank you, Sean, for sharing your time and energy with us to protect our rivers.
#BeRiverResponsible Corporation: Patagonia Nashville
Patagonia has truly been a steadfast partner locally to our organization and globally with Yvon Choinard forfeiting ownership to fight climate change. Our outreach has improved because of their amplification of our work through their website, sharing our social media posts, and partnering with us to host events that increase our exposure and deepen our impact. A great example of our partnership is the recent family plant walk event – a collaboration with a local outdoor learning organization, Nashville Nature Explorers. Many of the staff members have personally volunteered to help make our events successful. They also have materially supported us by providing goods for our silent auction and awarding grant funding to our organization. As an advocacy-based science and policy organization focused on addressing the root causes of why our rivers our impaired, Patagonia’s flexible grant support is important to our work. Thank you, Patagonia!
Science & Restoration Awards
Citizen Scientist of the Year: Dave Cantrell
Dave has over 40 years of worldwide industrial and academic experience as a geologist. He holds a Master’s Degree in Geology from the University of Tennessee and a PhD in Geology from the University of Manchester. It would take all day to list all of Dave’s accomplishments but here are a few highlights: He has published or co-published over 50 articles within and outside of academic literature, he served as the Associate Editor for Sedimentology, journal of the International Association of Sedimentologists, was an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University, an American Association of Petroleum Geologists Distinguished Lecturer, and in the past few years he founded and owns his own consulting firm, Cantrell GeoLogic. Dave has been collecting water samples for the Harpeth Conservancy as a volunteer for the past two summers and has been incredibly reliable and enthusiastic. He will even occasionally bring fossils to our office to the delight of our staff! Thank you, Dave, for your dedication and contributions to our work.
Citizen Scientist of the Year: Allyson Davenport
Allyson is the Outreach and Engagement Specialist at the Tennessee Environmental Council. She is an alumnus of Carson Newman University and Middle Tennessee State University and holds a B.S. in Geology and a minor in Environmental Sustainability. Allyson joined our Citizen Scientist team this year and quickly became one of our most dependable and consistent samplers. All summer she was in charge of collecting water samples from the Harpeth River along Moran Rd., which is the most difficult sampling location we collect from. We cannot thank her enough and just hope she will be back next year! Thank you so much for all of your help this year, Allyson!
River Restoration Award: Paul Fowler
Paul Fowler followed his dream. He completed his degree in Parks and Recreation at MTSU and interned with Warner Park and Beaman Park as a seasonal naturalist, where he led hikes and conducted other park programs before joining the Friends of Warner Park where he is currently Director of Resource Management. Paul is a leader of best resource management principles and has demonstrated success throughout his career in resource management. He and his co-workers have organized multiple projects for over 3000-plus volunteers and more than 10,000 hours of hands-on assistance in the areas of invasive plant removal, stream cleanups, tree plantings, environmental education, field trip guidance, and training at Warner Park.
Harpeth Conservancy is proud and fortunate to be among the many partners who conduct volunteer projects in partnership with Paul and other Friends of Warner Park. Paul and his staff provide resources, including a location, hand tools, and sometimes trained crew leaders, which enable us to better plan for and accommodate increasing requests for greater numbers of restoration projects and volunteers. This year we reached an impressive high of 75 volunteers for an invasive plant removal and tree planting project along the banks of the Little Harpeth River in Warner Park. We also conducted a cleanup project and discussed water issues with 20 Fulbright Scholars from 20 different countries. Paul, thank you for providing us with opportunities to continue to achieve our program goals and mission.
River Restoration Award: Pat Hutcherson
Pat Hutcherson is the owner of Foggy Bottom Canoe and Kayak Rental in Kingston Spring, TN. She is a leader among outfitters and long-time supporter of Harpeth Conservancy. Foggy Bottom has partnered multiple years with Harpeth Conservancy to conduct river cleanups along the Harpeth River and promote awareness and education about healthy ecosystems and responsible river recreation. Pat is a strong determined constant in life and work. When her home and business were devastated in the 2010 flood Pat remained at the location in tent and camper safeguarding what was left of her demolished home and business, building it back bit by bit with the help of friends and community. She is that same constant in her unwavering support of the Harpeth Conservancy. Most recently, we appreciate Pat’s comments and those of other outfitters and non-motorized boat stakeholders across the state as we and others prepare a final draft to address managing Tennessee’s public waterways for recreation. Pat, thank you for all you do for the Harpeth Conservancy, the Harpeth River, and the non-motorized boating community.
Community Engagement Awards
Outreach Award: Kathy Von Arb
Kathy Von Arb is a long-time member of Harpeth Conservancy. She lives on a tributary of the South Harpeth River and cares deeply about the river and promoting awareness about Harpeth Conservancy’s work to protect water quality and river ecosystems. While Kathy has volunteered at Family Fun Day and River Swing, her greatest volunteer contribution is definitely with our outreach events. She is a master at “on the job training” and helps outreach volunteers feel comfortable and confident talking about the Harpeth Conservancy. Her subtle suggestions about table displays, and elevator speech are a big part of why people stop at our booth to listen, learn, and sign up to receive more information about our organization and the work we do. Kathy, thank you for volunteering at various events and volunteering so much time and talent to our outreach program.
Outreach Award: Sarah Ford
Sarah Ford is a member of the Harpeth Conservancy Advisory Board. She and her husband Tim hosted Harpeth Conservancy’s first three consecutive Family Fun Day events at their beautiful park like property on the Harpeth River. Family Fun Day is an annual event designed for children and adults to engage in activities promoting clean water, healthy river ecosystems, and river recreation both on land and in the river. It opens doors to partnerships, outdoor learning experiences, social interaction, and so much more. Sarah goes above and beyond to prepare for the event. She and the Harpeth Conservancy staff work collectively making sure things run smoothly so participants, volunteers and venders have a rewarding and enjoyable experience. The time has come for Sarah and Tim to take a break from their hectic schedule and spend time together enjoying family, friends, and chasing down dreams. Sarah, how can we ever thank you for all you do to support our organization through events such as this, the many lives you touch, and the many other gifts you give to Harpeth Conservancy.
Next Generation Award: Gabel Gawthorpe
Gabel Gawthorpe began volunteering with Harpeth Conservancy in 2021. She helped plant and nurture native plants at our Eagleville restoration project. Since then, she has volunteered over 40 hours and recruited friends to help with other Harpeth Conservancy events including Family Fun Day, Dinner in the Creek, and River Swing. She said “I would have helped more this summer, but I went on a trip to Ecuador to volunteer and learn more about the environment. I helped plant trees and hiked to the most remote parts of Ecuador to appreciate nature.”
Gabel’s volunteer involvement with Harpeth Conservancy has profoundly impacted her life. Gabel is currently a freshman environmental studies and geology major at The University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She recently volunteered at the local UT Arboretum Family Butterfly Festival and is one of 100 people admitted annually into the University’s Honors Leadership program to further their leadership skills. In her words “I chose my major after working with the Harpeth Conservancy and your group of people were so wonderful to be around it was inspiring. I got very into volunteer work after finding Harpeth Conservancy and it helped me figure out what I am passionate about.” We are delighted to recognize Gabel Gawthorpe as our 2022 Next Generation River Steward Award recipient and look forward to her continued volunteer service.
Next Generation Award: Britton Busbee
Britton Busbee attends Montgomery Bell Academy. He is a stellar student, all honors or AP classes this year as a Junior with all grades in mid to high 90’s. He participates in Crew, a sport that takes a great deal of discipline and hard work. It also heightens his appreciation for river preservation. Britton worked in Scotland on a river this past summer as a flyfishing guide. He is an exceptional young man and rising leader who is conscientious and dedicated to his endeavors.
In May 2021, he and other Montgomery Bell Academy service club members and chaperones traveled to Bellevue to cleanup Flat Creek alongside other Harpeth Conservancy volunteers. The cleanup wasn’t enough for Britton; he wanted MBA’s service club to give more to Harpeth Conservancy. Britton’s efforts resulted in a partnership formed between Montgomery Bell Academy and Harpeth Conservancy to partner quarterly on service projects. Britton is now a junior at MBA and his experiences with Harpeth Conservancy have impacted his decision to change his college major to marine biology and environmental science. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Montgomery Bell Academy and are pleased to recognize Britton Busbee as our 2022 Next Generation River Steward Award recipient.
Special Events Award: Heidi Hartman, Carrie DuRard, and Dee Plunkett for River Swing
Harpeth Conservancy’s 19th Annual River Swing, our award-winning river chic fundraiser, set records for attendance and money raised, with than 1,000 supporters attending the event on Saturday, September 17th at River Circle Farm. The total amount raised from ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and the silent auction exceeded $375,000, a growth of more than $100,000. Our Special Events Awards for this year go to a few outstanding River Swing volunteers: Heidi Hartman is a realtor and owner of Mountain Girl Way, mom to Josie and rescue pups, connector of people, and our “superstar in advance planning”! Her “where there is a need, there is a way!” attitude helped make River Swing a success, specifically our Brownlee Lounge area. Dee Plunkett is a former non-profit executive, husband, father, owner of a truck, and our “wizard of wrap up and heavy lifting” who helped tremendously with set up, break down, and moving big things! Dee was one of Harpeth Conservancy’s first volunteers as a member of our dissolved oxygen study and has continued to show up to support Harpeth Conservancy in big ways. Carrie DuRard is the Director of Growth Operations at Lino, foster and adoptive parent of both youth and pups, Co-Founder with her husband Jase of Jonathan’s Path serving foster teens in Middle Tennessee, loyal friend, and our “master at execution and systems” who helped manage our 162-package Silent Auction. Carrie loves this quote by Margaret Mead, which perfectly sums up the power of our River Swing volunteers: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Special Projects Award: River Swing Way by Christian Currey, The Conseso Group, Civil Constructors, GIBCO, Vulcan Materials, and The Rogers Group
This year, Christian Currey, Board member and River Swing chair and host, made a significant commitment to River Swing with the installation of River Swing Way on his property, a service road that allows the event to happen regardless of weather conditions. Under the supervision of Advisory Board member Phil Pace of The Conseco Group, and with the leadership and support of Civil Constructors, a 250-foot commercial grade road was installed to over the road commercial standards. In addition to Civil Constructors, GIBCO, Vulcan Materials and The Rogers Group all donated their services for the infrastructure of the event. “We know first-hand the damage water can cause to our roadways and lands, so we support Harpeth Conservancy and were proud to create a road with proper run-off and structure for River Swing,” says Joe Rodgers, President of Civil Constructors. The addition of River Swing Way helped the event run more smoothly… and no one got stuck in the mud!
Impact Award: Chris Janson & Bass Pro Shop
Country music star Chris Janson loves the great outdoors and wants to keep his home state of Tennessee beautiful for generations to come. Together with Bass Pro Shops founder and noted conservationist Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela has teamed up with Janson to support conservation and community programs in Tennessee with a limited-edition hat sold exclusively at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Sales from the exclusive $9.99 hat are donated to support three of Chris’ favorite Tennessee-based nonprofit organizations committed to protecting wildlife and habitat and helping those in need in the Volunteer State: Harpeth Conservancy, Tennessee Riverkeeper, and Hunters for the Hungry. Revenue from this partnership has allowed us to ramp up our efforts to protect clean water!
Friend of Harpeth Award: Montgomery Bell Academy
MBA Service Club is a student-run organization that seeks to extend the MBA community beyond the scope of the school. The group performs projects designed both to give back to the larger Nashville community and to help boys realize their own roles as leaders within our city and world. Through their Service Club, MBA students have participated in tree plantings, invasive plant removals, and creek clean ups. At this year’s River Swing, MBA students joined volunteers from Vanderbilt’s S.P.E.A.R. program to help make sure our event was environmentally friendly. The students helped Harpeth Conservancy staff manage the Waste Management and Compost Company bins for recycling and composting. Almost 1,000 gallons of glass and an eight-yard container of cardboard, aluminum, and plastic were recycled from the event. We’re grateful for MBA’s commitment to our mission and look forward to continuing our partnership with Montgomery Bell Academy for years to come!