Elkin could be changing some of its town zoning ordinances in response to suggestions being made by the local environmental group, Watershed NOW, if the town board is open to the recommendations.
None of those changes have been formally represented to the commissioners as of yet, but Woody Faulk, a member of Watershed NOW, told the board at its October meeting that the suggestions were in the hands of town Planning Director George Crater and Planning Board Chairman Robert Ball for review.
“We are anticipating actionable recommendations to come before the board, hopefully in the near future,” Faulk told commissioners last month.
Also, during the Watershed NOW update, Faulk said work already has begun with several landowners since the group’s community meeting held at the end of August in an effort to bring landowners along Big Elkin Creek and its tributaries together.
“Since that meeting, Michael Pardue, director of the Wilkes Soil and Water Conservation District, has begun to work with a few farmers, although currently no contracts have been signed,” Faulk explained.
He said one of the projects includes about 80 acres and will shift farm practices on the land to a rotation of a winter cover crop, alternating with tobacco, as well as addressing waterway repairs and silt fencing. A second project on about 130 acres will involve the farmer planting tobacco and grass in alternating strips.
“These two projects will result in a net reduction of more than 2,500 tons of soil getting into Big Elkin Creek,” Faulk reported. “The intention is to work with farmers in a mutually beneficial way, to preserve and improve the economic yield on their farms as well as improve the water quality of the creek.
“We hope to work with a growing number of farmers in a similar way, which would hopefully lead to eventually eliminating the orange stream color after a rain event,” he said.
In addition, Ecosystem Planning and Restoration, a firm under contract with The Resource Institute of Winston-Salem, is working to locate potential sites where it can “provide services to support a sustainable environment.” An engineer with Ecosystem has looked at three potential stream restoration projects along Big Elkin Creek, Faulk said.
Once the sites are located, the group writes a grant for funding and then does the restoration design work and oversees construction if the grant is awarded. “Two of the sites we looked at might be doable,” said Faulk. “If Kevin, after further review, thinks they are possibly eligible for grants, then his firm will apply for the grants.”
If the projects are determined to be agricultural projects, Faulk said they could be fully funded.
“A third site, the Crooked Creek, presents a problem,” he said. “It is probably beyond our capabilities for stream restoration, but we may be able to address stormwater runoff from North Bridge Street and the businesses on North Bridge Street. This can be done by building sedimentation ponds to catch runoff before it gets into the creek and thus protect Big Elkin Creek from pollutants which would enter the town’s water supply.”
In other Watershed NOW news, Faulk updated the board on a new program it is partnering with Elkin City Schools to implement involving Authoring Action, which is a nonprofit arts and education outreach organization.
“We have obtained initial funding from the Winston-Salem Foundation, and we have now applied to the Chatham Foundation for additional funds to complete part one of the project, which involves the ninth-graders, and to fund part two, a watershed educational project involving the fourth-graders,” he reported.
The part one, Faulk said, will feature several 90-minute workshops with a focus of supporting the development of creative writing, spoken word, art and leadership skills; providing relevant forums for youth to develop their voices about the value of the area’s drinking water; providing activities that reflect and support asset building; and advancing the arts through collaborations with area artists and scientists.
In part two, the focus is to “build the capacity for fourth-graders to become change agents in the community by teaching them the value of conservation and protection of our watershed; students will learn about stream ecology, water quality issues and their own connection to our watershed; they will study how stream changes and how human activities can influence water quality; they will then complete a conservation project within the watershed,” Faulk said.
The two new programs at the elementary and high schools are an expansion of partnerships already ongoing with the middle school.
“Big Elkin Creek is the lifeblood of our community,” he said, noting that now in its second year Watershed NOW (Nuturing Our Waters) has gained incorporation as a 501(c)(3).
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.