Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham has proclaimed May as Project River Life Month, celebrating the effort to launch a specialty license plate which will benefit rescue operations and safety education on the Duck River in Bedford County.
Shelbyville Central High School student Alejandro Contreras Cabrera, who won a contest to design the new plate, received a copy of the proclamation during a ceremony on Thursday, May 19. State Rep. Pat Marsh, who is speaker pro-tem of the Tennessee House of Representatives, and State Sen. Shane Reeves were there to congratulate Contreras Cabrera and show their support for the project. Marsh and Reeves introduced the legislation creating the new specialty license plate.
Details will be available soon about how to pre-order the plate. The plate must receive 1,000 pre-orders by June 2023 in order for the state to begin production.
Bedford County Fire Chief Mark Thomas discussed the history of the project. Local emergency service agencies have been talking for years about the problems created by search and rescue operations on the Duck. The Duck River has become popular with kayakers. The vast majority of these kayakers follow proper safety procedures and have a safe and fun time. But some take to the river during dangerous high-water conditions, get into trouble, and must be rescued, putting both themselves and emergency responders at risk.
In the past five years, there have been 42 search and rescue events on the Duck River in Bedford County. A rescue operation often requires large numbers of responders, potentially pulling them away from other emergencies elsewhere.
The idea of a specialty license plate was proposed. The “River Life” plate will be sold statewide. The plate will cost $35 over and above the cost of a normal license plate, plus an additional $1 fee to your local county clerk, and $31.70 of that amount will go to promote river safety in Bedford County. The Shelbyville-Bedford County Community Foundation is the designated 501(c)3 not-for-profit agency which will receive the funds and administer them to Bedford County public safety agencies. The money will be used for rescue equipment, safety markings, access control, safety education and other related costs.
With the “River Life” branding, organizers hope that conservationists and those who enjoy the outdoors will show interest in the specialty plate statewide, not just in the Duck River watershed.
A professional graphic design firm is now adapting Contreras Cabrera’s design to meet the state’s production requirements. Once the final design has been approved, pre-order sales will begin. Those pre-ordering the plate will pay the $35 specialty license plate at the time they place their pre-order.