Earth Month gets community involved

By Haywood Waterways Association | May 12, 2014
Photo by: Christine O'Brien Mike Gillespie, Sonya Scott, Kelli Ray, Burton Ray, and Jack Korber show off their hard work after a cleanup in Richland Creek.

Earth Day was April 22, but Haywood Waterways Association celebrated it with a full month of activities. The efforts were designed to raise awareness of water quality issues and engage citizens in local conservation work. Events included stream cleanups, stormdrain stenciling and a watershed hike, along with promoting the use of rain barrels.

The Haywood Community College Environmental Club kicked off Earth Month on April 4 by marking stormdrains around campus with “Don’t Dump; Drains to Pigeon River.” The following week a group of five local citizens left their mark on stormdrains in the Frog Level area. The message helps spread the word that whatever is put into our stormdrains ends up in our streams. Streams that flow through highly urbanized areas — like the Pigeon River in Canton and Clyde, Jonathan Creek in Maggie Valley, and Richland Creek in Waynesville — get much of their trash from stormdrains.

For any trash that does make it to the stream, Haywood Waterways directs an Adopt-A-Stream program that gets businesses, community organizations and citizens actively involved in water conservation efforts. Four Adopt-A-Stream groups came out in force to remove trash from Richland and Allens creeks and the Pigeon River.

Tom Anspach has spent a lot of time focused on trash in the Pigeon River near the Canton Recreation Park. Allens Creek was cleaned by Old Town Bank and Allens Creek Baptist Youth.

“Having grown up very close to Allens Creek, I have fished that creek my entire life, and spent countless hours in that water. I never noticed how much garbage is actually in it,” said Anspach.

Mike Gillispie led his group, Richland Creek Streamkeepers, through Richland Creek along Vance Street Park.

"You never know what you are going to find," said Gillespie, “A kiddie pool, tires and a metal bucket were just some of the trash we pulled from the stream. Several fishermen from Kentucky watched as we cleaned up and it reminded me that many people come to this area for our natural beauty. We want to make sure we preserve that beauty for visitors as well as those of us who make our homes here."

Clean water is a result of everything that happens in a watershed. To help raise awareness of local watersheds and their issues, Haywood Waterways hosted a hike in the Big Creek watershed. Fifteen hikers enjoyed a tour up to Midnight Hole where they listened to Blair Bishop, instructor in the Natural Resources Management at Haywood Community College, and his student, Tim Greer, give lessons on forestry practices, forest ecosystems and plant identification.

The final event of Earth Month was a workshop on how to build a rain barrel. Rain barrels are a great conservation tool and a great investment for maintaining healthy gardens and landscaping. By capturing and retaining rainwater they help reduce stormwater impacts when it rains. Each barrel captures 650 gallons of stormwater per year on average and also helps keep pollutants, such as airborne nitrogen, from getting into streams. Participants left with one complete barrel and the knowledge on how to build additional ones of their own.

Even though Earth Month is over, Haywood Waterways Association sponsors events throughout the year. Those interested in volunteering should email Christine O’Brien at

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