For most of their married lives, Chris and Jim Nearing have lived on the water.
And to them, it only makes sense that they watch out for it now.
On a regular schedule, the couple walks down a steep embankment to their dock on Lake Lanier, not merely to enjoy it but to check on it.
The couple was recently honored, along with the Gainesville Public Utilities Department, for their vigilance in monitoring the lake’s water quality near its connection with Flat Creek.
“Since we use the water so much — we’re in the water all the time — it’s important for us to know whether it’s really OK or whether somebody’s just telling us it’s OK,” Chris Nearing said. “...It’s nicer to be able to speak to something when you have some real information behind it rather than to just give emotional responses.”
The Nearings say they’ve always shared a love for the outdoors and particularly the water. Since their marriage, they’ve lived on Lake Erie, Greenwood Lake in New Jersey and Winans Lake in Michigan.
Before they moved to their home near Oakwood, the Nearings lived a short time away from the water. It didn’t feel right, Chris said.
When a job in Tucker opened up, Chris told her husband she would not move with him unless they moved back to the water. Jim found a home near Flat Creek, and they’ve been there since 1996.
“Must be something primordial,” Chris said with a laugh.
Five years later, the couple became involved with Adopt-A-Stream by way of Jim’s required volunteer service for the Master Gardeners program.
Though he’s no longer involved with Master Gardeners, Jim and Chris continue to regularly record water quality near their home, tackling the testing as a team.
Jim checks and records temperature and pH level. Chris measures the dissolved oxygen.
The numbers they record let state and local environmentalists know whether the water is conducive to healthy aquatic life. And despite Flat Creek’s reputation for pollution, for the nine years Jim has been measuring it, he says the water quality has “tested beautifully.”
But Chris and Jim’s environmental work doesn’t stop at the glance of a thermometer and the stroke of a pen.
Along with their regular monitoring, the couple have been vigilant in keeping trash out of the lake.
During annual stream cleanups, Jim said he’s seen more than 30 tires come out of the water near his home as well as small refrigerators and computer monitors.
“Since we’ve always lived on water, it just seems logical that you would want it clean and attractive, so we pick up a lot of garbage,” Chris said.
Jim attributes a lot of his excitement about the work to Adopt-a-Stream mentor Brian Wiley.
Wiley, Gainesville’s environmental monitoring services coordinator, trained the Nearings for the stream monitoring program in 2002.
Wiley and his staff also were recognized this year by the state Adopt-A-Stream program for their efforts at educating the public about water quality. It is the second time in recent history the department has received the Program of the Year award for water providers in their category.
“It’s contagious, his enthusiasm for what he does,” Jim said of Wiley.