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In this tremendous era of growth in Nashville, striking a balance between that growth and preservation is exceedingly crucial. Locals are making efforts to protect our community in many ways both big and small. With four local initiatives as example, here’s how folks are stepping up to make a difference in Music City.

Nashville’s Storm Drain Adoption Program

The Nashville Clean Water Project (NCWP) is dedicated to the environment and, more specifically, clean water. Through waterway cleanup projects, education and advocacy, this group works hard to protect our local rivers, streams, creeks, lakes and watersheds. “Our legacy is creating the largest water cleanups in Nashville’s history,” explains NCWP Executive Director Mark Thien. “We have done massive stream and lake cleanups but realized we were picking up the problem after it was already a problem. We got upstream of the problem with the Storm Drain Adoption Program.”

Nashville’s Storm Drain Adoption Program, which launched in June of last year, invites locals to take accountability in ensuring our water is clean. “We wanted to create an environmental program that meets people where they are, instead of taking them into the environment. How much closer can you get than the end of your street or driveway?” Mark asks. “Many people don’t know that the storm drains in Nashville feed directly into our streams, rivers and lakes.”

Thanks to an interactive system created by local technologist Greg Rhinehart, you can view a map of storm drains across the city (more than 40,000 total). Find a drain near where you live or work, adopt one (or 10), and spend a few minutes each day removing blockage and trash. “If you see something on the storm drain, you pick it up — sticks, styrofoam cups … It takes three minutes,” Mark explains. It is so easy, in fact, that one local woman, Jana DeLuna, has adopted nearly 60 drains. “I realized this is something super easy that I can do when I get home from work. I can spend five minutes walking through my neighborhood and collecting trash. I wanted to get involved and am hoping others will get involved, too,” she tells us. Jana now sits on the board of directors for Nashville Clean Water Project. “If we can get the whole city involved, this will have a really big impact.”

This is the Southeast’s first drain adoption program and has the potential to drastically improve our waterways. To learn more and adopt a drain of your own, visit For group adoptions, email [email protected].

Belle Meade Blue Lights, Greenway Growth, Free Trees & More: 4 Nashville Initiatives

Residential construction; liquids, paints and oils; lawn care; organic matter and debris; gravel, mulch and soil; cigarette butts; plastic and garbage — all of these are examples of culprits for storm drain issues. See examples here. Image: NCWP

Belle Meade Blue Lights, Greenway Growth, Free Trees & More: 4 Nashville Initiatives

The blue stars indicate adopted storm drains and green dots are ones still available for adoption. Thanks to Jana, her neighborhood is full of blue stars!

Belle Meade Cameras

The “Belle Meade blue lights” have been the topic of much discussion in recent months, and it’s not in reference to the Belle Meade police force. Rather, it’s referring to the cameras found on electric poles throughout Belle Meade that have bright blue lights. The camera technology is designed to assist the City of Belle Meade police, as well as Metro Nashville, when serious crimes occur — not to catch speeders or track Belle Meade’s traffic habits. The digital cameras and license plate readers, placed at 20 key intersections in Belle Meade, are in place for “traffic incidents, crimes and Amber Alerts … the cameras have helped Metro in one or two incidents, already proving their worth,” says the Belle Meade’s City Manager Beth Reardon.

The idea for these cameras began nearly seven years ago. “We had robberies and one home invasion about six or seven years ago that started the talk of how to keep our residents safe,” Beth tells us. “The decision was not a fast one. The commissioners and staff have been studying this for about five years, and initially, the cost wasn’t doable — about $1 million. The system we have today was about half the initial cost, and the technology is five times better.”

The blue lights indicate where the cameras are — it was never the city’s intention to hide the cameras. The initial response to the cameras was unfavorable, but the City of Belle Meade is working to educate the community and let them know they are not Big Brother. “We just want to make the community safe,” Beth explains. “Metro enacted an ordinance that does not allow security cameras at this point in time. We are a separate city from Metro, with our own governing body. This decision was up to our commissioners and counselors, and they voted to put the cameras up.”

Belle Meade Blue Lights, Greenway Growth, Free Trees & More: 4 Nashville Initiatives

The cameras are found at 20 intersections in Belle Meade. Image: News Channel 5

Seed Exchange

A number of community programs offered by the Nashville Public Library — the popular puppet shows and OverDrive (the online app that lets you borrow eBooks and audiobooks and stream videos and music) being among the most popular. But there’s also the Seed Exchange. Through the seed exchange, people can “borrow” seeds to grow plants, and once the season is over, harvest seeds from their garden and return them to the library. “It is like going through an old card catalog,” Andrea Fanta, Marketing and Communications for Nashville Public Library explains.

You will find an assortment of vegetable, herb and flower seeds, all of which are donated by local farmers at these locations: Main Library, Bellevue, Bordeaux, Donelson, Edgehill, Edmondson Pike, Green Hills, Goodlettsville, Hermitage, Inglewood, Richland Park and Southeast Branch. “We want to recognize the local farms and farmers who donate the seeds,” Andrea says. “Nashville has a farmers’ market mindset and agricultural roots that define Tenneesse. This program is an extension of that.”

The program started five years ago and is wonderful for those with green thumbs as well as those without. “This community involvement project enables people, even if you don’t know anything about gardening,” Andrea tells us. You can take classes with master gardeners, borrow tips from green-thumbed librarians and, of course, find plenty of books to educate you on what to plant when. “The program allows people to grow their own food and to feel self-sufficient and empowered.”

Belle Meade Blue Lights, Greenway Growth, Free Trees & More: 4 Nashville Initiatives

Borrow, grow and return! Image: Nashville Public Library Seed Exchange

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Nashville Tree Fest

“Trees are dying,” Carolyn Sorenson, Executive Director of Nashville Tree Foundation (NTF), says matter of factly. “Not only is there growth threatening the canopy, but also an aging infrastructure and the emerald ash borer destroying ash trees, which represent 10% of the canopy.” The NTF is dedicated to planting and preserving trees in Nashville. “We are encouraging canopy regeneration in Davidson County,” Carolyn explains. One large way in which the foundation is encouraging regeneration is by urging residents to plants trees and motivating them to do so by giving away 800 trees at NTF.

During a three-week period, from September 25 through October 12, NTF is giving away trees to residents of Davidson County. Thanks to a generous grant from the Arbor Day Foundation, coupled with regional and local support, the event is expected to be eight times bigger than it was last year. This year, 200 three-gallon trees have been reserved, and an additional 75 one-gallon potted trees will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at each market (600 trees total). While last year there was one event (under the name Taking Root) and 400 trees, this year, there will be eight events at eight neighborhood farmers’ markets: 12South, St. George’s Church, Old Hickory Village, Plaza Mariachi, Bellevue, Richland Park, East Nashville and Hip Donelson.

Not only can you pick up a tree, but experts will be on hand to help you select a species, teach you how to plant and care for it, and answer any questions you may have. Plus, NTF will give away a tree hammock donated by Cumberland Transit and a soil mix donated by Renae and David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center.

“Trees are an asset to our city, and they are also a health benefit. In fact, the city signed Executive Order No. 40 stating that trees are a public utility,” Carolyn tells us. “We want this to be equitable to everyone in Davidson County because planting a tree is something you, your kids and your grandkids can enjoy, but it is also for the health of the city.”

Trees are only available to Davison County residents and must be planted in Davidson County. There is a limit of one tree per household. Learn more here.

Belle Meade Blue Lights, Greenway Growth, Free Trees & More: 4 Nashville Initiatives

Don’t miss NTF’s Nashville Tree Fest, an opportunity to contribute to a greener Nashville.

Belle Meade Blue Lights, Greenway Growth, Free Trees & More: 4 Nashville Initiatives

Plant a free tree thanks to Nashville Tree Fest.

Here’s to making Nashville a better place to live every day!


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