EXIT 196

By Betsy Thorpe


Free of the debris that once polluted it’s waters this stretch of Richland Creek is now only littered with autumn’s fallen leaves, thanks the creek’s “adoption” by the Richland Creek Watershed Alliance

Dozens of travelers leave I-40 at Exit 196 everyday, some to visit friends and family, others for fuel, refreshment or lodging. They all have a story to tell and we are here to share a tale or two that we heard at Exit 196.

On Monday two environmental water specialists from Denver Colorado arrived at Nashville’s airport. After renting a car they stopped at EXIT 196 on their way to Memphis where they planned to participate in a Mississippi River rehabilitation project. They were happy to hear what we had to say about the activities of West Nashville’s Richland Creek Watershed Alliance.

The Richland Creek Watershed holds a historical significance not only for Nashville and Tennessee but for our nation. It was a hunting ground for several Native American groups for thousands of years before settlement of the area by American pioneers.In 1779 General James Robertson led ten pioneer families from North Carolina over the East Tennessee Mountains into the Watauga River valley to settle the area which would become the first settlement of Tennessee. When General Robertson came with this group of pioneers from North Carolina he represented the United States and he chose to build his log cabin along the creek he named “rich land,” because of its’ fertile soil, rich hunting and and it’s value as a water resource. For a period, Richland Creek became part of the western boundary for the United States and therefore a significant historic treasure. In honor of his wife General Robertson later named the road that passed over one section of the creek Charlotte Pike.

In 2006 Monette Rebecca, B.S. Environmental Science and a stakeholder in West Nashville’s historic Sylvan Park neighborhood discovered a need for a public alliance to protect the Richland Creek Watershed. After observing the first gully washer rain event and the large volume of pollution entering the creek at Charlotte Avenue she was motivated to begin an assessment of the watershed. This led to the creation of Richland Creek Watershed Alliance.

About a year of visual assessment, historical research, and researching regulatory reporting for the watershed followed. In January 2007 Monette Rebecca made a presentation to introduce the Richland Creek WatershedAlliance to local leaders and organizations. The alliance’s primary objectives were introduced as: educating the public on water resource sustainability and related issues and to encourage stakeholder participation in stewardship projects and programs; all aimed at the protection of this historically and environmentally significant watershed.

Today, thanks to the vision, mission and clean up efforts and of the Richland Creek Watershed Alliance and with the support of Metro Councilman Jason Holleman, West Nashville’s historic creek is being restored to a state of harmony with nature and it’s natural splendor is once again enjoyed by the urban residents who live near and along it’s historic banks.

Many of the old timer’s at EXIT 196 can recall a time when Richland Creek was a viable and safe body of water and are especially proud of the Richland Creek Watershed Alliance for working so hard to preserve it for the enjoyment and use of future generations.

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