Evergreen Packaging Buffer Plantings Protect Richland Creek
Haywood Waterways Association recently joined forces with Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District and Evergreen Packaging to improve water quality along a section of Richland Creek. A dozen folks joined on a brisk December morning to set in 100 plants along the stream behind Evergreen’s Waynesville site. The plants will help prevent stream bank erosion, filter pollutants, and provide shade to keep stream temperatures cool. They will also provide food and shelter for wildlife.
Funds were provided by a grant from the NC Division of Water Quality 319 Program. Evergreen’s landscaping crew from Southern Maintenance in Canton assisted with the planting of winterberry holly, blueberries, beautyberry, and spirea. The plants came from Cold Mountain Nursery in Canton. Derric Brown, Director of Sustainability with Evergreen Packaging said, “We are proud to support this project to improve Richland Creek water quality. These plantings will provide plant diversity along the creek supporting wildlife and game fish like trout”.
The main purpose of the DWQ grant was to create the Richland Creek Watershed Action Plan which will guide efforts to protect and improve water quality for all users, including agriculture, industry, drinking water, and recreation. Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District’s Department Director Leslie Smathers remarked, “Since we all live in a watershed, it was very inspiring to see the volunteers and paid staff of several organizations cooperating to improve the natural resources of our county.”
Richland Creek flows through the town of Waynesville, one of the most developed areas of Haywood County and the Pigeon River Watershed. Lake Junaluska, a 200 acre reservoir formed near the mouth of Richland Creek, is continuously receiving high sediment loads and needs periodic dredging at significant cost. Streams in the watershed also support good population of trout, which are just one of the many species that require cold, sediment-free water to thrive. The plantings set in at Evergreen Packaging will help keep sediment out of the water and the cold-water streams cool.
Eric Romaniszyn, Haywood Waterways, noted “Clean water and a growing economy are both important to Haywood County and its residents. As an organization which is tasked by our mission to maintain and improve water quality, we believe that we can have both by making simple changes in the way we all use the land. Projects like this riparian planting which frames a public greenway multi-use trail are perfect opportunities to bring the pubic to the project.”
Riparian buffers are important to improving and maintaining water quality. There are many terrestrial zones on our planet: deserts, mountains, plains, coastal areas, for instance. Each of these areas or zones exists for a particular purpose, including the riparian buffers. In the case of the riparian zones, these areas act as buffers which provide habitat for a diversity of plant and animal species. Many of these species don’t live anywhere else and are well-suited for these places. Like the water birds with long legs for wading in creeks and rivers, many plants that grow in these zones are very good at holding the soil and preventing it from eroding during heavy rains. They also shade the water to keep it cool for the game fish like trout, for which WNC is so famous.
Riparian plantings also slow stormwater runoff from parking lots, roads, and open areas as it makes its way into waterways, reducing flooding and pollution by giving the water time to soak into the soil instead of running directly into the stream. Where water quality is concerned, riparian zones are nature’s way of naturally cleaning water, just like the estuaries and marshes do along the Coast. When vegetation is cleared from these areas, soil erosion increases and more dirt ends up in the waters. The worst enemy of the streams and rivers in Haywood County is that sediment.
Haywood Waterways believes that water is a critical part of everyone’s lives. Projects like the riparian buffer at Evergreen provide great benefits for our streams, but they also help humans reconnect to water. The water cycle is the way water flows through nature in a way that never ends. Water flows through us as part of that cycle, accounting for the fact that more than 60% of the human body is water. It’s that buy-in that we believe provides the greatest long-term benefit for protecting and preserving our water quality. It’s about changing habits and behaviors and encouraging people to make conservation or wise use of our natural resources part of their daily routines. When that happens, everybody wins. To learn more about how you can keep our waterways clean in Haywood County, go to www.haywoodwaterways.org. or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on Facebook.