NEWPORT—The crowd was, sadly, rather small, but those present were united in their continued interest in seeing the Pigeon River returned to its pristine state. They gathered Saturday, Oct. 26, at Newport Cinema 4 for the premier of Guardians of Our Troubled Waters, a spellbinding documentary focusing on three parallel communities: East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and the Everglades.
Researched and filmed by David Weintraub, Executive Director of the Center for Cultural Preservation in Hendersonville, North Carolina, Guardians of Our Troubled Waters is 77 minutes long. The film focuses on the stewardship of rivers such as the Pigeon and French Broad and tells the story of people living nearby from thousands of years ago until today.
The storyline documents changes in the regard and care of water sources from the days of the Native Americans through the rape and pollution of the waters during the Industrial Age and then highlights the stories of such early heroes, such as the late Wilma Dykeman, in efforts to stop the pollution.
Special guests at the screening were three members of the original Dead Pigeon River Council, a group formed in the 1980s to seek an end to the pollution of the Pigeon River by Champion Paper in Canton, NC.
Following the showing, the three, Gay Webb, Bobby Seay, and Jamie Brown, sat as a panel to reminisce about those early days and answer questions from the audience.
Webb recalled the late Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter, a strong supporter of the efforts, who, upon his return to Cocke County after leaving office. asked, “Why in the hell is the river still dirty? Sue those SOB’s and make them clean it up!”
Seay, noting the absence of any member of the city or county government in the audience, urged listeners, “Keep their (Champion) feet to the fire.” He recalled that while he served as Director of the Cocke County Chamber of Commerce, a group of investors visited Cocke County in search of property for a tourist site. “They visited the Moore Farm,” Seay said, “but the smell of the adjacent Pigeon River ended their visit. They eventually went to Kentucky where they built The Ark.”
Brown praised the continued efforts of younger people who “continue to carry the torch,” naming CWEET, among others. “We must have people continue to care.”