Since receiving permission from the town of Elkin in February, Watershed NOW, with the help of area volunteers, has painted messages reminding those in the area that storm drains are not filtered and lead straight to natural water sources. Seven more storm drains were marked this week by members of the Elkin High School environmental club.
“We are grateful for Julian [Charles] and Stuart [Taylor] with Watershed NOW to help us partner to do this,” said Ruthann McComb, environmental club advisor.
She explained at the beginning of the semester, Taylor attended an environmental club meeting and the groups were looking for ways they could partner. “This was one of the ways we came up with,” McComb said of marking the town’s storm drains.
Messages painted include an image of a fish and the words “Keep it clean, Drains to river” and “Protect our watershed.” They are painted in bright yellow right beside the drains.
Three club members participated in the project Wednesday afternoon, which took care of drains at the corner of the intersection of West Main and Front streets, as well as one at the library handicap-parking spaces, two just south of Main Street and one near the intersection of Front and Market streets.
McComb said the students “volunteered to come out today to help paint storm drains to protect our stream.”
Julie Neumark, Ethan Mastin and Asher McRitchie took turns sweeping the concrete curbing, placing the stencils and spray painting the messages as Elkin Police Sgt. Keith Church provided protection for the group with blue lights on his patrol car.
Now a senior, as is Mastin, Neumark said she joined the club as a sophomore, “because I’m really passionate about helping the environment and doing what I can to protect and restore it.”
She said she enjoys the time she gets to spend in the garden and assisting with projects such as the storm drain awareness “that help my community.”
Mastin said he joined the club this year as a way of experimenting with different areas of study. The high school drum major said he enjoys being part of the club “so I can get out and do projects like this.”
The junior of the trio, McRitchie said he got involved with environmental club as a freshman when his sister, Ava, was one of the founding organizers of the club. “I think the reason she started it, my dad was always outside and he raised me the same way,” he said of his love and appreciation for the out of doors.
“I just felt like being part of the environmental club makes me want to take care of the environment because of all the struggles the world is going through and I like that I can make an impact,” he said as he traveled from one storm drain to the next.
Watershed NOW members Charles and Taylor were on hand to assist the students in their project, providing the paint, air masks, protective glasses, stencils and reflective safety vests needed.
“We have done a dozen or so around town,” Charles said of the number of storm drains now marked. “We started in Elkin Municipal Park, then at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital. This will take us up to 18 or 20.
“The point is not to do them all at once, because it’s nice for organizations like the environmental club and schools to be part of it.”
Those interested in volunteering with Watershed NOW or following its projects can find them at https://www.facebook.com/WatershedNOW/ or email Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.