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Shaw Creek River Restoration Project Helps Veterans Heal

Shaw Creek runs through Veterans Healing Farm in Hendersonville, N.C. (Resource Institute)
Shaw Creek runs through Veterans Healing Farm in Hendersonville, N.C. (Resource Institute)
May 12, 2020

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. -- A river-restoration project on a farm for veterans in Hendersonville is bringing new life to a community space.

Veterans Healing Farm began in 2013 as a way to support the emotional and social well-being of returning service members, who use the land to grow food, herbs and flowers. The farm's executive director, John Mashie, said repeated floods had caused the banks along Shaw Creek to become severely eroded, so he teamed up with local conservation organization Resource Institute and the Henderson Soil and Water Conservation District to restore the stream.

Mashie said flowing water is naturally healing for veterans transitioning back from military life.

"The creek is multifaceted in terms of what it created," Mashie said. "One is the sound of the water as it flows over some of these various features; obviously, to see the water, to have an open area that they can sit next to the water. Additionally, the entire creek is planted with elderberry that is going to be used to create medicine."

Research has shown spending time in nature can improve the psychological well-being of veterans struggling with depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other serious health problems. North Carolina is home to more than 700,000 veterans.

Senior Water Resources Engineer at Wildlands Engineering Jake McLean said eroding stream banks can lead to land loss and reduced crop production and can harm aquatic life.

"That's sending sediment downstream - places where there's mussels and other organisms that get smothered out with sediment," McLean said.

He said as part of the restoration work, veterans helped plant more than 3,000 native plants and shrubs alongside the creek.

Reporting by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the Park Foundation.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC