One of the binding ties of the community is Big Elkin Creek and its tributaries. It provides the quench to residents’ thirst, an industrial drive for years in the past and a form of recreation for everyone from hikers to bikers, fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts.
Last week was a time dedicated to the area’s waterways — raising awareness and urging preservation. Watershed NOW (Nurturing Our Waters) held its fifth annual Creek Week of events with area students and the community.
“Watershed NOW began five years ago with a mission of preserving and protecting our waterways in this area, in our home watershed,” said Stuart Taylor, coordinator of Watershed NOW, during a community celebration held Thursday at the Reeves Theater. “We began with a mission, but you can’t save something until you love it, and you cannot love something until you know it.
“We hope to help our students, our young people and our community to come to know our watershed better, and in knowing it, love it, and loving it to join us in protecting and preserving it.”
Taylor said his own life story could be told by water. “A story told by water beginning with the birthing waters of my mother when I was born. The water in which I was baptized as a child into the faith, growing up hiking and camping in the mountains of western North Carolina and falling in love with water, running water, moving water, the beauty of water,” he said.
When he spent 18 years living in the desert of southern Arizona, Taylor said it was then that he “really realized how precious water is and in the scarcity of the desert I understood that water is life. Water is life. In the desert, that’s understood, but in North Carolina, we can kind of take that for granted.
“We pay our water bills, we turn on the faucet and water is there,” he said. “We are blessed with beautiful rivers and creeks, and so we face the temptation of taking water for granted. We can’t do that.”
He went on to explain the definition of a watershed, “a region or area of land that drains naturally into a river,” and that the Yadkin-PeeDee, the second largest watershed in the state, is one of 2,000 watersheds in the United States. It covers 7,200 miles.
“Within that watershed, there are sub-watersheds as in Surry County and the Tri-County area. We have the Roaring River, the Fisher River, the Ararat, the Mitchell, and of course Big Elkin Creek, our water source,” Taylor said. “All these rivers flow into the Yadkin, which flows into the PeeDee, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean.”
“You can think of our watershed as our ecological address. It’s where we live, and it’s the location of the watershed community of which we are a part,” he said. “This watershed is not just made up of human beings — the brook trout that requires the cold water of shaded mountain streams, the bog turtle that requires muddy wetland areas, the kingfisher, the beaver, the deer. The rivers and creeks themselves are living waterways that have requirements for sustainability.”
The work of Watershed NOW focuses on three areas, Taylor explained. One of those is the town, and a film, created by Julian Charles and edited by C.S. Young Jr., debuted at the Creek Week celebration will be the centerpiece of an exhibit in the new trail and heritage center when it opens in downtown Elkin.
Another of the areas is the work the organization’s volunteers are doing with landowners and farmers to help alleviate erosion and chemicals and pollution in runoff that flows into the watershed.
The third is the group’s work with area students on teaching them about the watershed and its importance, and providing a living classroom each year during Creek Week at Elkin Municipal Park and along the E&A Rail Trail where it follows Big Elkin Creek.
The first portion of Thursday’s celebration featured a number students from Elkin City Schools, from instrumental and vocal musicians, to fourth-graders who have been working on water-related projects and experiments in their classrooms. Members of the newly formed MEGA (Make Earth Great Again) environmental club at Elkin Elementary School shared their vision for the group.
The second portion of the event featured music by Julian Charles with special guest Naomi Orr, the debuted of the film on Big Elkin Creek and some words from keynote speaker Janisse Ray, a riverkeeper and author from Georgia.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 336-258-4035.