Ribbon-cutting, open house
What: Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s Headwaters Office
When: 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 13
Where: 104 Washington St. SE, Gainesville
It may look like an outdoorsy retail store from the sidewalk, but the newest tenant in the Gainesville square is longtime environmental watchdog Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.
The agency has set up shop for its Headwaters Office at 104 Washington St. SE, moving from smaller quarters off Oak Street.
“It’s really been great having this visibility,” said Janet Westervelt, Headwaters outreach manager. “We’re making contact with all the other businesses around us and (with) people walking by and coming in. It’s been a great way to connect with the community.”
The office not only serves as a regional base for the organization but features a “professional-grade laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment for the most accurate water testing,” according to a press release from the nonprofit organization.
“In 2015, our board launched a … campaign to basically help increase our presence in the headwaters, as well as in our mid-Chattahoochee office (in LaGrange), and to expand all our programs and outreach,” Westervelt said.
The office opened earlier this year but is planning a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house on Sept. 13.
The agency’s lab has been busy as part of the organization’s Neighborhood Water Watch program, which involves volunteers bringing in water samples every Tuesday from neighborhood streams.
Dale Caldwell, Headwaters watershed protection specialist, works out of the office monitoring water quality and promoting green infrastructure and stream restoration.
“I think the government sector has a strong role in what we have to protect and conserve, but there are also challenges,” said Caldwell, who used to work for three different government agencies, two in Georgia and one in Florida.
“There’s a little more freedom here to do what needs to be done. You don’t have the bureaucratic or political restrictions.”
Westervelt said the office plans to expand the neighborhood monitoring program, as well as tracking and addressing sources of pollution.
The new office also plans to increase membership, hold events to increase public awareness, and lead events such as river cleanups and paddle trips.
“Our work will help secure clean water for future generations and the wildlife that depends on our rivers,” she said.