2005 Bill Russell River Hero Award
A special thank you to all those who helped us celebrate Chester's achievements Monday, July 18th at the Memphis Botanical Gardens.
“I want to say many thanks again for the tremendous honor that I received from TCWN. One often believes that few know about or care of the efforts one makes in the conservation arena. On many of my efforts it has been a lonely job. But the TCWN proved me wrong by selecting me for the River Hero Award. Thanks.” -Chester McConnell
Many thanks to our sponsors: John Noel and Melinda Welton * Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association * Mid-South Fly Fishers * Sierra Club-Chickasaw Group * Wolf River Conservancy * Reelfoot Lake Watch Group * Swan Conservation Trust
Chester McConnell - our River HEro
Chester McConnell has worked on river issues in Tennessee and around the country for over 30 years. He is responsible for initiating, running and reinvigorating some of the most important river saving campaigns in West Tennessee history.
In the 1970’s Mr. McConnell was responsible for saving the Wolf River in Fayette County from a channelization, clearing and snagging project that would have drained the Ghost River and likely changed the course of the ensuing next 20 years of river protection on the Wolf River. The Wolf River Conservancy raised over a million dollars to buy the Ghost River swamp in 1997, the target of the drainage project. If Mr. McConnell had not intervened there would have been no swamp to save!
Beginning in the late 70’s and continuing well into the 1990’s Mr. McConnell proves to be an unwavering champion of wetlands protection in West Tennessee. He opposed two parallel projects jointly called the West Tennessee Tributaries Project. This project called for the dredging and enlarging of hundreds of miles of river in West Tennessee and the potential drainage of tens of thousands of acres of wetlands. The Forked Deer and Obion Rivers of West Tennessee would be ripped apart by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and a State Agency known as the Obion Forked Deer Basin Authority. These two agencies together would leave virtually no part of these river systems untouched. This one campaign lasted over 20 years and is potentially still not over, but it changed the course of history in West Tennessee and began to reverse over 150 years of river abuse.
Mr. McConnell efforts are well documented in the press locally, regionally and even at the national level. He has been on television and radio shows and is not averse to utilizing the legal system when necessary to halt a project. He has been involved in several federal cases and state court cases. Mr. McConnell has successfully appealed several water quality certifications before the Water Quality Control Board.
Helping others in need typifies Mr. McConnell’s attitude of helping and advising others when asked. He has always freely shared his wealth of knowledge and experience and helped create a network of wetland and clean water advocates across the region. His unselfish sharing of his time, money and resources to help make the world a better place for people he may never know.