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Stream Restoration Gives New Life to Pilot Mountain State Park

The superintendent of Pilot Mountain State Park in Pinnacle, North Carolina, reached out to Resource Institute for a solution to stop erosion for one of its streams. (Paula Worden)
The superintendent of Pilot Mountain State Park in Pinnacle, North Carolina, reached out to Resource Institute for a solution to stop erosion for one of its streams. (Paula Worden)
November 12, 2020

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- One of the most frequently visited parks in North Carolina has improved a prized natural resource.

Grassy Creek, which flows through Pilot Mountain State Park, was severely eroded.

Ken White, vice chair of Resource Institute, a Winston-Salem based nonprofit that restores streams, rivers and wetlands, said they used sustainable river engineering technologies to improve natural stream stability.

He argued keeping streams healthy can help the park and local economy grow by attracting new visitors and keep dedicated patrons coming back.

"To go out and spend a day on the Blue Ridge Parkway and see the throngs of people that are out enjoying the trailheads," White urged. "It really makes you appreciate the fact that what we can do creates that opportunity for all of North Carolinians, or even visitors from other states, to come in here and get out and enjoy the great outdoors."

White added conservation work is especially important in places like Pilot Mountain, which rises 2,000 feet from the North Carolina Piedmont and historically functioned as a navigational landmark. Pilot Mountain State Park conserves almost 4,000 surrounding acres.

Grassy Creek empties into the Yadkin River, the second-largest river basin in the state.

White remarked keeping excess sediment out of the stream means cleaner water for the more than 1.5 million people who rely on the Yadkin for drinking water.

"What we're doing is helping every city, every municipality, every town that's got their straw in the Yadkin River basin," White contended. "They don't have to add additional chemicals to treat the water; their water intakes remain very viable and usable."

Jake Byers, senior water resources engineer for Ecosystem Planning and Restoration, said it's up to government officials and state leaders to support conservation funding for these types of improvements, especially as local budgets feel the strain of the coronavirus recession.

"This project was funded primarily through the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund," Byers explained. "It's an important source of funding for nonprofits, municipalities, different institutes, to get restoration work done in the state of North Carolina. And we should all be thankful that it exists."

He pointed out conservation work can save local governments money in the long run.

Stream restoration not only keeps sediment and debris out of local waterways that supply drinking water, but can also prevent storm runoffs and damage from flooding.

Disclosure: Resource Institute contributes to our fund for reporting on Endangered Species & Wildlife, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC