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NC Water Recreation Keeps State Economy Afloat

RiverLink's newly installed river access point at Pearson Bridge in Asheville opens up recreation opportunities for all kinds of watercraft. (PEarson/RiverLink)
RiverLink's newly installed river access point at Pearson Bridge in Asheville opens up recreation opportunities for all kinds of watercraft. (PEarson/RiverLink)
July 11, 2016

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Over the weekend thousands of people flocked to North Carolina's beaches, rivers and lakes to enjoy the recreation the state’s natural landscape offers.

But nothing can taint a day on the water more than unsightly and even unsanitary conditions.

The 23 land trusts in the state work with other groups to make sure waterways are clear of trash and debris.

George Santucci, president of the New River Conservancy, says after almost 50 years of increased environmental awareness, he sees progress.

"We've been lucky to do this long enough that we're starting to see lower amounts of trash being pulled out, even on a rare occasion go out there to do a cleanup and almost find nothing, but there's still a lot out there and folks don't think," he states.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, almost half of North Carolinians participate in outdoor recreation each year, generating $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.

RiverLink, a regional nonprofit group in western North Carolina, works to revitalize the economic and environmental potential of the French Broad River. And volunteer coordinator Dave Russell says in addition to the improved health of the waterways, the visual cues that come from clean waterfronts make a huge difference.

"I think the most important part is public perception,” he states. “People have to believe and have to feel like the water that they're getting into to play, to tube, to kayak, to fish is clean and safe for them to do so – safe to eat the fish, safe to get in their eyes."

Santucci says while society has made huge advancements in environmental awareness, even the smallest acts of littering have an impact.

"No one realizes that when you throw a piece of trash out by the road, you know what, eventually that's going to end up in the river because all the storm drains, all the storm systems that are running along the side of the road, well, where do they go?” he says. “Right to the next river or creek."

According to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, there are impaired waterways across the state, with high concentrations in the Charlotte and Raleigh metropolitan areas and along the state's coastline.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC