Alabama Rivers Alliance recognizes river heroes across the state

Alabama Rivers Alliance
Cheryl Hamilton and Jean Cox (Friends of Pinchgut Creek), Joe Womack (Africatown/C.H.E.S.S.), Eva Dillard (Black Warrior Riverkeeper), Justinn Overton (Coosa Riverkeeper), Dawn Lee (Birmingham Botanical Gardens and ARA Board of Directors). Not pictured: Kathleen Kirkpatrick. (Chad Hoffman/Alabama Rivers Alliance)

The Alabama Rivers Alliance (ARA) announced their list of 2023 River Celebration Award honorees this month at their 25th annual Alabama Water Rally held at Camp Beckwith in Fairhope.

The River Celebration Awards recognize and celebrate notable organizations and individuals who have made outstanding contributions toward protecting clean water and healthy rivers in their community.

“Much of the work of these individuals and organizations goes largely unrecognized except in our own circles,” Cindy Lowry, executive director of Alabama Rivers Alliance, said. 

2023 Honorees

Alabama Rivers Alliance
Carol Adams-Davis (Sierra Club Mobile Bay Group), Joe Womack (Africatown/CHESS), Cindy Lowry (Alabama Rivers Alliance), Justinn Overton (Coosa Riverkeeper), Eva Dillard (Black Warrior Riverkeeper) and Nelson Brooke (Black Warrior Riverkeeper) (Chad Hoffman)

The honorees of the 2023 River Celebration Awards are:

Emerging Leader of the Year – Dawn Lee, for her leadership with ARA and other organizations. Lee spent the past year reorganizing the structure of ARA’s Junior Board to the Young Professional River Defenders, and provided guidance throughout ARA’s strategic planning process.

New Group of the Year Friends of Pinchgut Creek, for their new work protecting Pinchgut Creek and the Cahaba Headwaters through education, community involvement, and advocacy

James Lowery Service Award – Kathleen Kirkpatrick, for her dedication to many organizations in Alabama, including Hometown Action, Coosa Riverkeeper, Alabama Hub of GS4GND, Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN), and more. She devotes so much of her time in service to Alabama’s environment.

“We are proud to be recognized by A.R.A. as the 2023 New Group of the Year,” Jean Cox with Friends of Pinchgut Creek told The Bama Buzz. “Friends of Pinchgut Creek was just formed in 2021 and we were able to quickly get up and running because of support from the Alabama Rivers Alliance, and we are grateful for their continued support and guidance. We are happy to be a part of the amazing network of groups that are working hard to care for the beautiful waterways in our state.”


Coosa Riverkeepers
On the right, RIVER HERO Justin Overton (Coosa Riverkeeper/ Facebook)

In addition to these awards, three extraordinary individuals were also recognized with the highest achievement award of RIVER HERO. The Alabama Rivers Alliance considers these awards the  ultimate recognition given to passionate individuals who have profoundly impacted Alabama’s river movement through their hard work and leadership. 

The 2023 River HEROES are:

“I’m honored to have received the award,” Coosa Riverkeeper Justinn Overton added about the RIVER HERO honor she received. “I certainly would not be able to have received it with all the help of countless people. Although I was one person that received it, I consider it to be powered by our members and my staff and our leadership at Coosa Riverkeeper.”

Alabama Water Rally 2023

Alabama Water Rally participants (Kelly Marshall/Alabama Rivers Alliance)

ARA’s Lowry summed up this year’s class of Award winners:

“We cherish the opportunity to honor their work and dedication with our River Celebration Awards and are proud to work alongside them defending our rivers – and the people who rely on them – throughout Alabama.”

Pat Byington
Pat Byington
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