After 25 years of water sampling on Hinkston Creek, Larry George looks forward to new challenges

By the Licking River Watershed Watch Group

Photo submitted.

Larry George, who monitors Hinkston Creek in Montgomery County, is ready to pass his dissolved oxygen kit – and his knowledge – to a new generation. After 25 years, he says it’s time to help in other ways.

“Larry George is an outstanding example of how one Watershed Watch volunteer used the tools that were given to him to improve and protect Kentucky’s water resources,” Watershed Watch State Coordinator Jo Ann Palmer said. “He collected water monitoring data for 25 years and worked hard to make a difference in his community.”

The Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) is an original partner in this volunteer program starting in 1997. There are currently 840 active volunteers, like George, across the state, according to Palmer.

DOW supports the Watershed Watch program, Palmer said, through her position and a basin coordinator for each of Kentucky’s seven watershed basins. The division also keeps a database of volunteer information, sampling sites and events that the basins host.

George, who lives in Mount Sterling, said his interest in protecting the county’s waters began with an English class after he got out of the Air Force.

“Our teacher had a bunch of books and one day told us all to pick out one and write a paper about the author and the subject. I picked the Rachel Carson book ‘The Sea Around Us’ and ‘Silent Spring’ about the effects of pesticides. The whole subject of needing to protect the environment really hit home with me,” George said.

By the mid-1990s, George was living in the Mount Sterling area when he saw a newspaper article about a volunteer water quality monitoring program kicking off in Kentucky. He knew he had to check it out.

Watershed Watch in Kentucky paired George with Barry Tonning in 1998 to start sampling along Hinkston Creek. The two have continued monitoring sites in Montgomery County for nearly 25 years.

“It’s been great sampling with Larry over the years,” Tonning said. “He’s amazing. He’ll go out with a lawn mower a few days before we sample and mow us a path through the tall grass down to the creek, to keep the chiggers away. I’ve gotten way too used to him always having his test kit, with all the reagents, thermometer, probes – everything, right down to the chain-of-custody forms and vinyl gloves.”

But as rivers flow along, time marches on.

“I’m not as stable walking around on the banks and in the creek as I used to be,” George said with a laugh. “There are a lot of younger folks out there, and they need to step up and do this work.

“People need to get away from their laptops and TVs and get out into the world and see the problems first-hand, and work to fix them…Kentucky has so many nice rivers, streams, and natural areas – we need to protect them.”

George plans to continue his work with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), an international grassroots volunteer network of backyard weather observers who work together to measure and map precipitation in their local communities.

George also has reported daily precipitation and storm conditions for Montgomery County for the past 11 years and serves as a storm spotter for the National Weather Service, reporting conditions to the Jackson weather station.

Learn more about Watershed Watch by visiting

Jo Ann Palmer and Brad Bowman contributed to this story.

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