Russell Cave Watershed
Restoration Project

When the Sewanee Mountain Grotto reformed, we decided as a grotto to focus some of our efforts on cave conservation. By 2005, the grotto had grown and we had friends coming to cave from all over the region. A number of cavers went to White Cricket Cave or Water Works Cave in the Russell Cave Watershed. We all knew about the gigantic road side dump along Orme Mountain Road, however, the sheer vastness of it was daunting.
 In the end of 2005, the Grotto decided to “adopt” the Russell Cave Watershed and clean it up.  Due to the size of the first dump, the SERA Karst Task Force resources were enlisted to assist with this overwhelming project. From February 2006 through March of 2007, 20 tons of debris was removed from the first dump using the SKTF Highline Haul System. The debris included over 400 tires; 29 automotive gas tanks (some with gas still in them); 6 mostly empty Freon tanks; 3 gallons of concrete stain; and a large number of batteries. This is in addition to the typical trash, appliances, furniture and mattresses. 
 The following winter, the Sewanee Mountain Grotto “attacked” the second smaller dump down the road heading toward the town of Orme. The town members found out what our members were doing and fed us dinner on two different occasions after our clean ups. Approximately 10 tons of debris was removed from this dump. Community support continued when one of the local landowners donated enough funds to pay for the three dumpsters we needed. In addition, these funds were used to make and post “Russell Cave Watershed” signs and “You are entering a Protected Drinking Water Watershed” signs. Marion County officials also offered help. They have waived all tipping fees at the landfill and have provided both community service and trustee workers to assist in the clean up. We no longer have to rent dumpsters. We leave the debris bagged and piled on the roadside and the County comes and removes it for us.
Over the past 4 years we have removed over 100,000 pounds of debris from the watershed. We still have about ¼ mile of roadside to clean up to make it to the town of Orme. The Sewanee Mountain Grotto and SKTF are also looking at cleaning up Gross Hole. This vertical cave entrance has been the site of historic dumping and is also in the Russell Cave Watershed. Come join us for this important project and help protect the caves and watersheds we care about.