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The Compact’s Year in Review

January 22, 2024

What (and who) defined the Cumberland River Compact in 2023?

It was psychiatrist Carl Jung who originally coined the idea, now popular among conservation activists, of “doing the next right thing”; or, putting one foot in front of the other until you get to your goal, no matter how small the progress feels. And sometimes, the progress can truly feel small: for instance, when you’re fighting through tangled roots and chunks of old asphalt in what seems like a never-ending battle to dig one hole and plant one tree.

That’s why it’s important for us to remember that we’re not alone: every effort we make to build a greener, healthier community is echoed and amplified by tens, hundreds, or thousands of others doing the same. One of the Compact’s most important functions is to pull like-minded individuals together– and show them all the ways their efforts are paying off.

While most of us spend the majority of our year in the “next right thing” mindset, it’s important to occasionally take a step back and look at our progress. Reflection is part of the work– and there’s no better opportunity for that work than the closing of an old year and the ushering in of a new one.

So, what (and who) defined the Cumberland River Compact in 2023? 

An organization’s identity is best described by its actions and its relationships; to answer this question, let’s take a quick look at a few Compact accomplishments from last year. With the support of volunteers, partners, communities, and individuals from across the Cumberland River basin, this was our 2023:

2023 was defined by people.

Volunteers attend a kayak litter clean up.


1,126 volunteers donated their time to cleanups, planting events, and other Compact efforts.

Teachers attending an e-STEM training at the TSU Nursery Research Center.





293 teachers from over 40 counties attended one of our environmental STEM trainings; they can now pass their knowledge down to countless students.

The Compact’s Field Team at a minor bank stabilization site.






54 people attended a minor bank stabilization workshop and learned stream restoration techniques with Compact staff.

Neighborhood Planting Captains and representing Root Nashville at an event.




45 Neighborhood planting captains from 38 different neighborhoods pitched in to help deliver Root Nashville trees throughout Davidson County.

Rose Park students examining macroinvertebrates from their local stream.




4,894 students from 56 different schools received a lesson about water health from a Compact educator. The Compact is committed to prioritizing conservation efforts in marginalized areas: 78% of those students attended Title 1 schools.

In 2023, we covered serious ground.

Aerial photo of a healthy stream and the surrounding riparian buffer.

52.712 acres of riparian buffer (the land surrounding a stream, which plays a crucial role in supporting water health and biodiversity) was permanently protected through the Compact’s conservation easement program.

Invasive plant removal and stream bed reconstruction at Stephens Valley.


43.582 acres of that land is part of our Stephens Valley stream restoration project: the largest suburban stream restoration project in the state (and possibly the whole country!).

The Nature Conservancy’s Cumberland Forest Project.



50 acres of previously mined land were secured to be a part of our mine land reforestation initiative in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. In 2024, we’ll begin rehabilitating the soil on this land and repopulating it with native plants.

A healthy stream bank in Middle TN.



11,970 linear feet of stream bank was restored by the Compact in total at Billy Dunlop Park, the Sam Davis Home, and dozens of minor bank stabilization sites all over Davidson County!

Broken Point Farm, a certified River Friendly Farm.



671.75 acres of farmland became part of the Compact’s River Friendly Farm program last year, thanks to nine new farms obtaining their certification.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Volunteers pose with trash removed from a local waterway.



34,300 pounds of trash were removed from local waterways by volunteers in 2023– that includes 272 tires!

Volunteers at a kayaking cleanup.






110 cleanup events took place: that’s almost a third of the days in a year!

Compact field team with a truckload of invasive plants.








610 linear feet of invasive plants were removed from riparian zones, making room for native plants to thrive.

A field team member installs a native live stake.









1325 live stakes and bare root seedlings were planted along those same stream banks, where their roots will prevent future erosion.

Volunteers at a Root Nashville tree planting.









5,298 trees were planted in Davidson County alone as a part of Root Nashville, a public-private campaign led by the Compact and Metro Nashville. 930 of those trees went to large sites that received 10 trees or more.



With this information in mind, we look back on 2023 as a year of building community and trusting the process. These are values the Compact will continue to uphold in 2024 as we strive for another year of innovation, growth, and increased awareness of water quality issues all over Middle Tennessee. 

The Compact’s goal is to steward the Cumberland River: a massive system whose overall health is determined by millions of individual moving parts, from the smallest salamander to the biggest eastern hemlock tree. It’s important to recognize that like the river, our community is a massive system– and like the river, it benefits from every additional participant, every ounce of effort poured into it. 

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for an amazing year!


Author Bio

Jess Awh is the Communications Coordinator at the Cumberland River Compact, where she creates multimedia content to tell the story of water-centric conservation initiatives in Middle TN. You may have seen her before on Compact social media posts, or read her writing in one of our newsletters or blogs. Jess has a bachelor’s degree in music with a focus on ethnomusicology from Columbia University. She was born and raised in Nashville and is deeply committed to environmental advocacy in the city she calls home. In her free time, she enjoys playing music and hanging out with her cat, Birthday.