The “exchange” in the River Exchange refers to the sharing of knowledge.

Thursday afternoon, River Exchange executive director Dea Knox strode into the office with papers in hand. “I'm so glad Ed called me in on this!” she called to administrative director Robin Singler. Knox had just returned from a U.S. Geological Survey public meeting at Dunsmuir city hall, where she and county supervisor Ed Valenzuela had gathered with various government officials.

“They're starting to collect groundwater data!” she exclaimed. “We'll have access to their databases!”

A new source for watershed information does not often generate such excitement in a downtown Dunsmuir office, but the River Exchange is unique. This non-profit, more a clearinghouse than a business, serves as a hub of natural resource information which it intakes, sorts, stores and shares with a wide variety of institutions, including government agencies, private industry, the community and other non-profits.

Thus, the “exchange” in the River Exchange refers to the sharing of knowledge.

“This information is used to make watershed management decisions,” explained Singler. “For example, the U.S. Forest Service will be using data we collected this summer in Castle Crags recreational site inventory.” She cited the work of project assistant Nora Silber, who had assessed the impact, if any, from visitors to the area, and whose findings will be discussed at a public meeting later this year.

Another, perhaps more visible example of a way the River Exchange shares knowledge for public benefit is through events it organizes throughout the year.

Its River Festival includes a science fair that educates school children, while adults who tour the fair and other exhibits pick up bits of information about the local geography and native plant and animal life.

“All along, the River Exchange has been educating the community to be effective watershed stewards,” said Knox. She described last month's Great River Clean-up and last week's Dog Trailhead Clean-up as demonstrations of first-hand stewardship, volunteer efforts to administer directly to the needs of the river and its surroundings.

Knox herself began as a volunteer. After serving on the board of directors for three years, she started work in the field last summer, reporting on spring health in the Squaw Valley Creek drainage. In February this year, she was hired as project director, focusing her efforts on restoration of the headwaters in Mount Shasta City Park. In August, she stepped up to executive director, though she plans to lead the headwaters project until its completion.

Administrative director Singler keeps the office running smoothly. “My job is to take care of the day-to-day, but very important tasks like checking the mail, processing donations, managing data and organizing events,” she said, “which are mostly to serve our mission and engage the community.”

Both women describe their duties as service to the River Exchange mission which is, as Knox noted, “Promoting healthy watersheds through community involvement in stewardship, restoration and education.”

The River Exchange's board of directors takes an active role in operations. “The board is enthusiastic, dedicated and very supportive of the staff,” said Knox. “Each board member contributes unique help, such as leadership skill, experience with regulatory agencies and expertise regarding native plants and fisheries.”

The current board is comprised of president Mark Gibson, vice president Chris Stromsness, secretary Gene O'Rourke, Fred Gordon, Richard Tinsman, Carol Winston, Mike Dean and Mary Ellen Colberg.

This year, work continues in the Squaw Valley Creek drainage, funded by the Bella Vista Foundation, under a grant for ecosystem restoration. Knox said that three grants now support the River Exchange in addition to donations, which do not necessarily have to be solicited. Though there is some outreach for local funding, the River Exchange maintains its regular donors and attracts new ones when it holds a public involvement event or publicizes a restoration project.

As executive director Knox puts it, “Donors are glad to contribute year after year, because they see value in the work we do.”