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KNOXVILLE — The Community Partnership Center at the University of Tennessee is helping citizens of Blount County to create a watershed plan for the Little River.

“Little River, Big Future” will involve Blount County residents in planning to improve water quality and protect local environmental and natural resources around the Little River.

Kick-off for the program will be 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, May 25, at Heritage High School in Blount County.

A series of forums and field trips focused on water quality topics will be held in June and July. From August to December public workshops are scheduled to develop community solutions for implementation by government organizations.

“This is not a traditional ‘top down’ process where experts come into a community and tell them what to do,” Dr. Tim Ezzell, director of the Community Partnership Center, said.

“Instead, we take a ‘bottom up’ approach where residents examine the issues, evaluate the alternatives, and seek solutions for local issues.”

A watershed is a valley where water from nearby land areas drain.

CPC hopes to create a model of citizen participation that can be applied to other watersheds in the nation, Ezzell said.

The center, a recognized leader in the development and application of participatory processes, is joining the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Environmental Protection Agency and Blount County for this project.

“We are pleased to partner with the University of Tennessee, the Little River Water Quality Forum, and the Little River Watershed Association to help the community understand the importance of environmental stewardship and the value of protecting our water for future generations,” said Bridgette Ellis, TVA vice president of resource stewardship.

“Little River is a Blount County treasure,” said Little River Watershed Association (LRWA) Executive Director Melissa Nance-Richwine. “It is a source of relaxation and enjoyment for our community as well as thousands of visitors each year.

“As our community grows, change will occur in land use and water demands leading to increased pollution from construction and runoff.”

In anticipation of this growth, Nance-Richwine said, the LRWA is starting a community process to develop a watershed plan. This will ensure the Little River is protected for years to come.

“When we save Little River from further degradation, we save a major part of our ecosystem.”