Hiawassee River Watershed Coalition hosts camp

Blairsville campers study Hiawassee River watershed

The Hiawassee River Watershed Coalition recently held a free water-quality day camp at the Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center in Blairsville, Georgia. Sixth grade students from Union County, Towns County, and Fannin County met for five days to study the area's watershed.

The young people were given hands-on experience in biology and chemistry while learning basic water quality science. Agricultural practices, water components, fish sampling, and aquatic insects were part of the agenda. The students learned practical ways to improve water quality around their homes, neighborhoods, and hometowns.

During the week long camp, participants were given the opportunity to work on interesting projects including the collection of data from area streams. Afternoons were set aside for field trips. The amateur scientists visited Brasstown Bald, Hill-Vue Farms, Blairsville's Water Treatment Plant, and Vogel State Park .

HRWC Executive Director Callie Moore says, "Volunteers make it possible for us to coordinate these camps. We couldn't do it without them." She listed sponsors and other volunteers including Young Harris College Biology/Ecology Professor and Camp Director Brenda Hull, Joe Garner, the Community Council of the Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center , the Blairsville Garden Club, the Union County and Blue Ridge Rotary Clubs, the Tennessee Valley Authority, UGA Cooperative Extension, the US Forest Service, and Vogel State Park . Moore added, "People were coming out of the woodwork wanting to help with camp this year." It's no surprise that water-quality education is important to many people.

Watershed Coalition day camps are held at various locations in Georgia and North Carolina throughout the year. Students are nominated by their schools depending on interest in water science. Ten nominations from each school usually result in about 15 actual campers in attendance. This small number allows for increased individual attention.

The Hiawassee River Water Coalition was formally organized in 1995 as a nonprofit organization that encompasses portions of two states, three Soil & Water Conservation Districts, four counties, and six municipalities.   The Coalition membership now includes nearly 300 individuals, families, and businesses.