The Museum of East Texas in Lufkin will host a discussion Sunday about preserving the Neches River. The five authors on the panel have an intimate knowledge of the Neches, which flows more than 400 miles through East Texas.
Stephen F. Austin State emeritus professor of English, Francis Abernethy, has penned a new book, “Let the River Run Wild!” Abernethy collaborated with Woodville, Texas, photographer and conservationist Adrian Van Dellen. The 88-year-old Abernethy says they spent nights on the Neches River to produce the book.
“We’d go out and float for two to three days, and get an area photographed. The main thing is I’d get an understanding of it myself so I could write about it," Abernethy said.
Van Dellen began photographing the Neches in earnest nearly a decade ago. The retired U.S. Air Force research scientist now works to protect it from dams and development through the organization he founded, Neches River Watershed Sentinels. He says book proceeds will benefit this organization.
“Texas is aimed toward growth and there’s a lot of new demand on water and we have drought conditions," Van Dellen said. "The [Neches] River is in great demand and we need to work to save some of that. So it was easy to come up with “Let the River Run Wild!”
Abernethy, a self-proclaimed tree hugger, views the Neches as a respite from a fast moving world. He says the wildlife at home in its watershed is worth protecting and he feels a personal connection after spending so much time observing it.
“To get up in the morning is just almost like a resection. The sun coming up, the birds flying around -- you feel like you’re part of a grander scheme of things than what you find down at the shopping center," Abernethy said.
The symposium, "A Neches River Conversation" will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Museum of East Texas, 503 N. Second Street, Lufkin. Other panelists include Neches River authors Gina Donovan, Richard Donovan and Texas ornithologist Cliff Shackelford.
Van Dellen’s Neches River photography is on display at the museum through May.