The Tennessee River winds past downtown Chattanooga. (Photo: Bob Butters)

In the late 1980s, a local environmental group named Earthworks sponsored a raft in a race on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga. After pulling their raft from the river through piles of trash at Ross’s Landing, they decided something needed to be done. The group, led by Denny Haldeman, began to meet regularly to see how other cities did successful cleanups and how they might do something similar in Chattanooga.

In the nearly 30 years since, the annual Tennessee River Rescue event, scheduled for the first Saturday in October, has removed tons of trash from the banks of the Tennessee River and its tributaries in the Chattanooga area. Hundreds of people get involved in 15 zones throughout Bradley, Hamilton and Marion counties, cleaning up tires, plastic bottles and other trash.

According to Nancy Brice, one of the coordinators of the Tennessee River Rescue, about 800 volunteers participated in last year’s event, and about 300 tires were collected. The tires get recycled.

Volunteers remove trash from the Mountain Creek zone. (Photo: Tennessee River Rescue)

This year’s Tennessee River Rescue takes place Oct. 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

If you’d like to help make the Tennessee River beautiful, there are several ways you can get involved:

—Go to one of the cleanup zones Oct. 7. Preregistering is not required, but if you have a large group, you may want to call your zone captain to let them know the ages and sizes of people in your group. T-shirts are distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis, with a minimum of two hours of work required. Be sure to wear clothing and shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy. You’ll be provided with gloves and trash bags.

—Get a group together, perhaps a scout troop or a church group, to help run a new zone.

—Donate $150 to sponsor the cost of a trash bin.

—Companies can donate $300 to have their names on the Tennessee River Rescue T-shirts.

—You can make a monetary donation here.

Click here for information about cleanup zones, including zone leaders and their contact information.

You can also contact Tennessee River Rescue coordinators Christine Bock at 423-718-7057 or Nancy Brice at 423-413-0700.

Visit the Tennessee River Rescue’s Facebook page or website for more information.

Examples of Tennessee River Rescue T-shirts. (Photo: Tennessee River Rescue)