Riverkeeper started as a volunteer

Published 5:13 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2022

By Angela Cutrer
Elizabethton Star
Andy Hill is instrumental in his work with a trash trap process that collects trash from waterways. It’s him doing his part to take care of the natural world he loves.
Though he’s now serving as a full-time employee of MountainTrue, Hill, 40, started out as a volunteer on the Watauga River, including working with Elizabethton folks.
“It’s so important to protect these vital cultural regions,” he said. “I’ve worked with a lot of people in Carter County and you’ve got some great, great volunteers there.”
Hill now serves MountainTrue as the High Country regional director and Watauga Riverkeeper. It’s a natural profession for Hill, who is a long-time educator and guide. His job keeps him “intimately familiar with our watershed from the headwaters to the tailwater and [he] is passionate about protecting the places we love,” MountainTrue said on its website.
Hill graduated from Appalachian State University with a bachelor’s in outdoor experiential education and a master’s in college outdoor program administration. He and his family live on a tributary of the Watauga in the Sugar Grove area.
Hill is the founder of Fish Goat Guide Service in Valle Crucis and of the Fly Fishing Program at Lees-McRae College. He teaches paddle sports, natural resource management and leadership-group dynamics as an adjunct instructor at Appalachian State University. He also serves on the board of the High Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
But Hill spends a lot of time working to keep the natural areas of North Carolina, Tennessee and all parts around as pure as they were made so that all may enjoy its bounty for years to come.
MountainTrue envisions thriving communities in the mountain region connected to and helping sustain both each other and the natural environment, its website states. To achieve this, MountainTrue works with community planning, policy and project advocacy, on-the-ground project, all while being committed to working toward establishing complementary partnerships so that all may enjoy this beautiful area. They seek to protect the natural systems of air, land, water, and native plants and animals so as to benefit future generations.
That means MountainTrue depends on its employees and volunteers to cement natural processes to bind communities with their lands.
“We work closely with the fine people in Elizabethton, including Keep Carter County Beautiful and Mike Mains of the city’s recreation department,” Hill said. “They are the nicest people and they do a great job protecting our natural environments.”
The Trash Trout Trap was created by a nonprofit named GreenWorks. The passive litter collection device floats on pontoons, catching debris floating down a waterway. Installed in creeks and streams where it prevents trash from entering main waterways, the device traps large pieces of trash and plastic while allowing smaller organic matter to pass through or below unharmed, according to a story in the Mountain News.
Hill oversaw the installation near Boone as part of the town’s sustainability initiatives. Volunteers are crucial in their work to collect the accumulated trash every two weeks and sort it to identify where the trash may originate. This process could help in stopping the trash from entering waterways in the first place.
Editor’s Note: The Elizabethton Star features area volunteers each week online and in our print edition. If you’d like to recommend a volunteer for us to feature, email us at news@elizabethtonstar.com.

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