The organizers and leaders of Watershed NOW, a group in Elkin dedicated to the betterment of Big Elkin Creek and its tributaries, is kicking off a third partnership in the community this week.
During a recent Elkin Board of Commissioners meeting, the Rev. Stuart Taylor, coordinator of Watershed NOW, gave an update on the group, where it’s come in its two years of existence and where members hope to see it go in the future.
He explained that the organization, now an incorporated 501(c)(3), has built partnerships with the Elkin City Schools, working on projects involving the students at all three of the system’s schools now, and has partnered with the town, opening discussions on how to strengthen the municipality’s water ordinances to better protect Big Elkin Creek.
“Big Elkin Creek is the life blood of our community,” Taylor said during his presentation. Not only does it provide recreational opportunities such as fishing and the route for the E&A Rail Trail being constructed by the Elkin Valley Trails Association, it also serves as the town’s primary source of drinking water.
“We recognize the potential impairments to the streams and creek,” he said.
Group member Joe Mickey, during a PowerPoint presentation, later pointed out areas of erosion and runoff upstream of the town.
The third partnership is just beginning this week with the launch of the Friends of Big Elkin Creek, Taylor explained. That kick-off included a meeting inviting 250 landowners along Big Elkin Creek and its tributaries to gather and talk about what can be done to protect the waterway.
“We hope through this network individual projects will occur, and we can broker grants to make those happen,” said Taylor.
Mickey explained that everything to the west of U.S. 21 as it goes north out of Elkin is part of the Elkin Creek watershed. “It is a valuable natural resource,” he said, adding that it is home to wildlife; an endangered species habitat for the bog turtle near its head waters in Traphill; provides recreation such as canoeing, birding and walking.
“It has been a valuable resource for the people. There were seven dams on Elkin Creek at one time, with some still being used,” Mickey said. “It supplies the water for town, feeding a 63-million gallon reservoir.”
One of the concerns those in the area mention often is the creeks “red” flow when the region receives a lot of rainfall.
Mickey said several things contribute to that “red” color, from livestock allowed to graze along the banks, causing erosion; to the construction of roads along steep areas for logging purposes; to farm land that runs off into the streams feeding into the creek. He also pointed out construction sites along the watershed area which stir up red dirt.
Other concerns include parking lots, roof tops, littering and illegal dumping that all end up in the waterway.
But Mickey said eroding banks can be repaired, and other projects could address some of the concerns brought to light during the meeting.
“One thing we are doing is education, riparian zone protection plus stream restoration. The Elkin and Jonesville water supply protection plan will contribute to that,” Mickey said.
“We all need clean water. We want a big healthy Big Elkin Creek. It is rated fair to good by the state now, but closer to fair because of the sediment,” he said. “We need to pass this on for future generations.”
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.