When members of Watershed NOW, a local conservation group, decided to branch out and start a new group, Friends of Big Elkin Creek, and invite landowners along the waterway to join their cause, they were sure what the results would be, but they were hopeful to start new partnerships.
An inaugural meeting of Friends of Big Elkin Creek at Elkin Creek Vineyard proved successful, as 30 landowners not already affiliated with Watershed NOW came out for the gathering to hear what the group is about and to learn how the landowners can partner with the conservation group to secure funding for stream restoration and preservation projects.
Woody Faulk of Watershed NOW reported Monday during the Elkin Board of Commissioners meeting that invitations were sent to 100 landowners, and with the 30 who attended the meeting, “We were excited about the turnout and the quality of interaction.
“We first wanted to introduce ourselves to the landowners as an organization that is actively seeking partnerships in the community that will help preserve and protect Big Elkin Creek. We also wanted to gather more information about the landowners’ hopes and concerns and their thoughts about where we go from here.”
The landowners’ concerns mirrored those of Watershed NOW, with 35 percent of the participants ranking muddy water as a primary concern. Faulk said other concerns mentioned included the impact of fertilizer runoff on safe drinking water.
“Forty-eight percent felt the index of success of our efforts would be clear water, and 26 percent felt it would be safe water. Ninety-five percent wanted Friends of Big Elkin Creek to pursue watershed quality improvements,” Faulk reported.
“Some expressed a strong interest in a consultation regarding the possibility of a stream restoration project of some kind on their property,” he added. “Since the increasing sedimentation problem related to stream bank erosion and stormwater runoff was ranked as the highest concern, we are going to begin working on a priority list of projects that will have the most impact on improving water quality.
“We will seek state funds and local matching monies to assist landowners in addressing these problems as they are identified,” said Faulk.
In addition to the individual projects, he reported that Watershed NOW is preparing to launch a “Stream Watch” program, which will equip volunteers and landowners with tools to test the water quality along Big Elkin Creek where there are areas of concern.
Faulk also announced a new partnership with Elkin High School thanks to a recent $4,000 grant obtained by Watershed NOW.
The organization has received a grant from The Winston-Salem Foundation to offer an arts-based learning experience for Elkin High School students during the 2016-17 school year. The grant is made from funds provided through the Elkin Community Trust.
Part of Watershed NOW’s mission is to educate the entire community about the importance of and need for clean water. In partnering with Elkin City Schools, the organization supports a specific focus on the local watershed through multidisciplinary lessons, including photography, watercolor painting, scientific discovery, music, poetry, stream restoration, and more.
This program is an expansion of a partnership already in existence between Watershed NOW and Elkin Middle School. Throughout the school year, activities are planned at the elementary and middle schools, especially in spring during Creek Week.
Funding from The Winston-Salem Foundation will now provide specific support to high school students as well. The project, conducted by “Authoring Auction!” of Winston-Salem, is designed to help students find their voices for action in the community.
The ninth-grade language arts and ninth-grade science teachers are keen to provide this opportunity to their students as it enhances the required curriculum. “Authoring Action!” will come to Elkin High School for 11 weeks in the fall and 12 weeks in the spring so that all ninth-graders will have the opportunity to experience the power of the arts as a transformational life process. The goal is that these 80-plus students will learn to harness the power of signature creative writing and will find their own unique voices about how they value water personally.
With the Big Elkin Creek running right beside the school’s campus, Watershed NOW recognizes an opportunity to make life changing connections for these young people as they mature into informed responsible citizens. The organization is committed to the goal of protecting the water that runs through the community, indeed that runs through its people, for generations to come.
“Authoring Action!” will provide a unique strategy for teaching the next generation of citizens in the community.
The Winston-Salem Foundation is a community foundation which supports charitable programs in the greater Forsyth County area. Founded in 1919 with a $1,000 gift, it now administers more than 1,300 funds and had total custodial assets of $387.4 million at the end of 2015. In 2015, the foundation granted $26.6 million to charitable causes, $2.4 million of which was through the Community Grants program.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.