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Rural Towns Do Needed Restoration Work, Despite Pandemic

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The city of Mount Airy, N.C., has undertaken a major stream-restoration project. (Adobe Stock)
The city of Mount Airy, N.C., has undertaken a major stream-restoration project. (Adobe Stock)
December 29, 2020

MOUNT AIRY, N.C. -- Small towns across the state are focusing efforts on environmental restoration and creating equitable access to green spaces despite this year's challenges from the pandemic.

The city of Mount Airy teamed up with Resource Institute and Pilot View Resource Conservation and Development to restore more than 12 miles of the Ararat River, which runs through the city, as well as expand outdoor recreation areas for residents.

Mount Airy's Director of Parks and Recreation Darren Lewis said the Granite City Greenway is a walking and biking trail that connects three schools and is walking distance from several Housing Authority developments.

"The Granite City Greenway is 6.6. miles in length. To date, we have Mount Airy High School, Mount Airy Middle School and Tharrington Primary School that are connected to the greenway," Lewis said. "The children are fortunate; they can walk right outside of their school classroom and get on the greenway."

Lewis said in the future, the city aims to complete the northern loop of the Greenway that will connect additional schools and link nearby Pilot Mountain, with the goal of creating a regional tourist destination.

Darin Young, chair of Pilot View Resource Conservation and Development, said the Ararat River's badly eroded stream banks were compromising wildlife habitat. By restoring the waterway and working with conservation groups, he said the river now ranks among the best in the state for trout fishing.

"We partnered with Trout Unlimited to really turn the stream back into an active fishery for trout," Young said. "It increases tourism for the county as well, bringing fishermen in from all over just to fish on the Ararat River, where prior to this, no one was able to."

Lewis added the stream restoration improvements also will protect drinking-water quality for residents, noting the city's sewer lines run along the Ararat River and streambank erosion put them at risk.

"Some of the restoration was tremendously needed to make sure the sewer lines were not affected," Lewis said.

Funding for the Ararat River restoration project and greenway development comes from the City of Mount Airy, North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Division of Water Resources and the North Carolina Department of Transportation as well as private landowners.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC