What do kayak trips, nature hikes, hellbenders, a brewery tour, and a family movie night all have in common? I’ll give you a hint… water. If you guessed they’re all activities during Rowan County’s first ever Creek Week, then you’d be correct! Let me tell you a little about it so you can get as excited as I am.
Rowan Creek Week will occur August 17 – 24, 2019, and there will be around twenty activities taking place that are hands-on and educational. Rowan Creek Week is a cooperative effort between environmental organizations, local businesses, civic groups, and local government departments to educate residents on the importance of our local waterways. From Town Creek, to High Rock Lake, all the way up to the Yadkin River, local water resources should be protected and cherished. Rowan Creek Week’s focus is to build awareness of the water around us that we use in our everyday lives.
We use water every day; it’s pretty much unavoidable. Our daily rituals couldn’t be achieved without water. We brush our teeth with water, we shower with water, we drink water, we prepare food with water – you get it. We know this as a fact of life, but most of us take clean, clear, drinkable water for granted. We wash our cars and let the suds sink into the ground, contaminating our ground water. We pour non-biodegradable chemicals into the streets that eventually make it to storm drains, which are not emptied into treatment plants to be filtered. Storm drains flow directly into creeks, which lead to lakes, which lead to rivers, which eventually dumps into an ocean. A lot of this pollution is done unintentionally from people who just do not know any better. Out of sight out of mind, right? Wrong! This is what Rowan Creek Week wants to change.
Rowan County Helps to Contribute to Healthy Water
Kelli Isenhour is an Education Coordinator with Rowan County’s Soil and Water Conservation department and is coordinating Rowan Creek Week along with many others. I spoke with Kelli over coffee one evening at Mean Mug to get the scoop on the upcoming events. Kelli is excited about Rowan Creek Week and the impact she hopes it will have on the community. I asked her if there was anything particularly special about Rowan County’s water resources and she said, “High Rock Lake is the second largest lake in North Carolina. We also have a large agricultural community.” Why is that important to water? Well, water is used to irrigate crops; without clean water and enough of it, our local farmers will not have successful crop yields. Soil and Water Conservation helps write plans and find financial resources for farmers to irrigate their crops such as building ponds, fencing out cows from creeks, and providing assistance in building wells to water cattle. Kelli is not a Rowan County native, but she speaks highly of our county. “Rowan County is pretty progressive in its environmental awareness for being a rural county,” she says. “Rowan County does a good job at cleanups and being an overall clean county. Salisbury is a very clean city.”
Kelli is looking forward to all the activities during Rowan Creek Week, but one activity she is especially excited about is Project WET. Project WET is a teacher workshop that normally costs $20-25, but is going to be offered for free on August 22, 2019 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the Rowan County Agricultural Building at 2727 Old Concord Rd. This workshop is for any type of educator and offers activities for kids from kindergarten to high school age. The workshop comes with a resource workbook that includes over fifty activities, such as demonstrating how much water we use and how water is filtered and cleaned. These hands-on activities incorporate not only science, but language arts, social studies, and more. Another event aimed at teachers and students will be the Water Awareness Day at Horizons Unlimited on August 20 from 8:30 am – 1:30 pm. Teachers interested will be required to register their classes. Students will rotate to different stations to learn about erosion, crops, water quality, the water cycle, and more.
Rowan County’s Resident Hellbenders
On August 24, 2019 at 3:00 pm, Rowan Wild will be putting on a special 30-minute presentation on the hellbender at Dan Nicholas Park in the Nature Center. The hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, and the second largest salamander in the world. I was able to catch up with Brooke Wilson and April Edmonds of Rowan Wild to get some information on Rowan County’s resident hellbenders, Dallas and Houston. Dallas and Houston were born on November 3, 2015 and came to Rowan Wild in September 2018 from the Ft. Worth Zoo in Texas. Fun fact from Brooke and April – hellbenders can also be referred to as “Allegheny Snot Otters” due to their slimy skin. I was somehow talked into touching one and I can attest that they are, in fact, very slimy. Hellbenders take in oxygen through their slimy skin, and because of this they need to live in creeks with cold, fast moving water. They typically live under or in between rocks and once they find the one rock to call home, they never really leave it. You may be asking yourself what hellbenders have to do with water besides living in it. “Hellbenders are an indicator species,” says Brooke. “They are a good indicator of water quality. If the water quality is poor, hellbenders will be low in numbers or there may be none at all.”
Take Action with Cleanup Events
Rowan Creek Week is about educating, but it’s also about action. There will be several cleanup events during the week that will rely on dedicated volunteers to help keep our waterways safe and clean for everyone to enjoy. On August 18 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, The Pedal Factory will be leading the Clean Creeks Ride where cyclists will stop along their route to clean litter and enjoy local waterways. This is a family-friendly ride and clean up materials will be provided. If you do not own your own bike, rentals will be available.
On August 24, 2019, two cleanups events will take place. From 8:00 am to 10:00 am, the City of Salisbury’s Stormwater division will lead a cleanup of Town Creek in Salisbury. From 8:00 am – 11:00 am, Muddy Sneakers will lead a cleanup and nature walk at Eagle Point Nature Preserve. Those with kayaks are encouraged to bring them to the Eagle Point cleanup to pick up litter those on land cannot reach. There is a canoe and kayak put in at Eagle Point. I don’t know about you, but it fills me with a deep sense of pride for Rowan County to see these partners stepping up to make a difference. I hope many of you will take some time out of your busy schedule to participate in one of these cleanups.
Like Kelli and myself, I hope that now many of you are just as excited for the first Rowan Creek Week. I wasn’t able to touch on all of the events taking place during Rowan Creek Week, but luckily you can view them all here. I encourage you to participate in as many of the activities as you can so you can become aware of how much we take our clean water for granted. Please share Rowan Creek Week with your family and friends. If you use social media, use the hashtag #RowanCreekWeek to show your support. Get out there and make a difference in your community!