My Tennessee initiative benefits local watersheds

My Tennessee initiative benefits local watersheds

March 28th, 2018 by Emily Crisman in Community Signal Mountain

TenneSEA Kids 4 Clean Water campers take samples from a local stream. The organization is holding a spring break camp April 2-6. (Contributed photo)

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Managing stormwater runoff is the first step toward reducing water pollution and stream bank erosion, a fact which Signal Mountain-based TenneSEA (Student Environmental Alliance) hopes to teach local adults.

The organization, which typically educates children about the importance of clean water, is partnering with the city of Chattanooga and Hamilton County water quality programs to launch My Tennessee. The pilot program is focused on working with homeowners, businesses and organizations to address stormwater runoff on their properties.

Clean-water camp for kids

TenneSEA is hosting a Kids 4 Clean Water spring break camp April 2-6 focused on adventure and teaching children about the importance of clean water. The camp will be based at the Mountain Arts Community Center atop Signal Mountain, running from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

Campers in third through eighth grades will learn to test the quality of water samples from area creeks, as well as participate in outdoor activities such as rock climbing and orienteering. The week will include trips to Signal Mountain’s Rainbow Lake, Lula Lake Land Trust on Lookout Mountain, and Renaissance and Coolidge parks downtown.

The cost of the camp is $200, and spots are limited, so anyone interested should sign up soon.

The Mountain Arts Community Center is at 809 Kentucky Ave. and can be reached at 886-1959. For more information, contact camp director Sara Neumann at 298-1892 or, or TenneSEA Executive Director Mary Beth Sutton at 413-0471 or

With the assistance of funds provided by a Lyndhurst Foundation grant, the three partner organizations will provide participants with tools to evaluate stormwater issues in their yards, and help them to find solutions.

The first focus area is the Mountain Creek watershed.

"We come assess their property and find ways they can help positively impact the watershed on their property," said Sara Neumann, TenneSEA watershed outreach specialist.

Through My Tennessee, local organizations and home and business owners can learn about the benefits of rain gardens, native plants, pollinator gardens and other ways of decreasing stormwater runoff and enhancing pollinator habitats on their properties.

People who are interested in participating can fill out a form available on the TenneSEA website. Participants may be eligible to receive funds from the city to pay for costs related to their stormwater reduction efforts, Neumann said.

Those who go through the process will be certified through the program, and receive a yard sign announcing their certification that will hopefully inspire others to participate, she added.

Jenny Peet and her husband Tony Billingsley, residents of the Spring Valley subdivision in the Mountain Creek watershed, were the first homeowners to participate. They constructed a rain garden on their property using a RainSmart grant from the city, and also removed invasive species, added native plants, provided stream bank protection and planted a pollinator garden.

"Mountain Creek is literally in my backyard so it's very much on our mind all the time," said Peet, as to why she and Billingsley chose to participate. "It's so helpful to have people to turn to when you have questions."

Neumann said that if the Mountain Creek initiative is successful, they hope to extend the program to other watersheds across the state.

For more information or to sign up to participate, visit