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September 01, 2010

Water Sentinels, Great Outdoors University Team Up


James Baker, longtime clean water activist and volunteer coordinator of the Tennessee Water Sentinels in Memphis, had a dental appointment in late July. And, as many of us are wont to do after a good drilling, he engaged the receptionist in friendly conversation on his way out of the office.

"We got to talking, and I commented on the trains that pass close to the dentist's office," says Baker, below center at a Water Sentinels training. "We talked about coal trains—how one coal train is about one day's supply of coal at most TVA coal-fired power plants. One thing led to another, and she told me that she's a volunteer with Great Outdoors University."


With a "hold that thought," Baker stepped outside and called Scott Dye, national Director of the Sierra Club's Water Sentinels Program. In turn, Dye called up Kate Friedman, the Memphis-area Coordinator for Great Outdoors University (GOU). Soon, two dozen Zebco 33 Automatic rod/reel combinations arrived at Friedman's office, courtesy of the Water Sentinels, for use on an August 14 GOU fishing trip. That's Dye below, with a box of Zebco rod-reel combos.


Great Outdoors University, says Friedman, is a youth-oriented conservation education program operating under the umbrella of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. Its stated mission is "to connect kids with the great outdoors in meaningful, life-changing and lasting ways." GOU participants are kids and youth who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience and learn about the outdoors.

"We're very pleased to be partnering with the Sierra Club, and we appreciate the donation of the fishing rods," says Friedman, below. "We're also looking forward to having Sierra Club members participate and share their expertise."


"There are loads of ways GOU and the Sierra Club can collaborate," Friedman says. "We do Wolf River trips several times a year where kids fish and do water-quality sampling, and we also do hiking trips and summer camps."


For the last several years, often coinciding with Earth Day, Baker and the Tennessee Water Sentinels have conducted a Wolf River Harbor cleanup in Memphis, where the Wolf River empties into the Mississippi. Above, kids scour the shoreline during one such cleanup. Below, the 2007 haul.


Great Outdoors University currently operates in Memphis and Nashville, with plans to expand across Tennessee. Eighteen more rods & reels have been sent by the Water Sentinels to the Army Corps of Engineers, who are co-hosting an upcoming event with GOU in Nashville.

Learn more about Great Outdoors University, the Tennessee Water Sentinels, and how you can get involved with the Water Sentinels near where you live.


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