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RiverKeepers praised for work on Yadkin

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
Creators of the Yadkin RiverKeeper group were congratulated Tuesday night for accomplishing much in a short period of time.
At the same time, they were reminded that the biggest challenge of their young organization’s life lies ahead.
“I’m extremely proud of y’all for what you’ve done,” said Rick Dove, North Carolina’s first RiverKeeper, a man who patrols the Neuse River in the state’s eastern stretches.
“What you’ve done is something very, very spectacular for the Yadkin River,” Dove continued.
Then he paused.
“If you pick the wrong person, it will set you back immensely,” Dove said, speaking of the individual that group members will eventually select as their RiverKeeper.
“The most important task is to find the right person.”
Members of the Yadkin RiverKeeper group met Tuesday at Catawba College’s Center for the Environment for a program marking their six-month anniversary.
Several group members joked that they should have cut a birthday cake to celebrate the occasion.
Less than a year ago, organizers began working to create a group that would serve as “the voice of the Yadkin River” and host a licensed RiverKeeper to watch the body of water from its headwaters in Wilkes County to the South Carolina line.
Members of Clean Water for North Carolina and the Yadkin Pee Dee River Trails Association hosted organizational meetings in Albemarle, Clemmons, Salisbury and Wilkesboro, bringing together 130 participants and dozens of donors.
Last fall, the founding donors gathered in Winston-Salem to elect a 12-member board of directors and shortly thereafter the group was founded as Yadkin Riverkeeper Inc., successfully applying for a license from the International WaterKeeper Alliance.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first of several group members plan to get the word out about the new organization’s goals and what it can do to help the Yadkin River.
A similar meeting will be held in late April in Stanly County and in mid-May another will be held in Surry County.
Tuesday’s meeting was hosted by Salisbury resident and RiverKeeper board member Melba Melton and representatives of Clean Water for North Carolina.
Dove, North Carolina’s first RiverKeeper, said North Carolina now boasts 13 RiverKeepers, tying it with California for the most in the country. He said a 14th RiverKeeper will soon be added to North Carolina’s list.
Dove said he remembers when he first assumed his job and took to the Neuse River in a tiny boat. He said he recalls looking at the mighty river and wondering aloud, “How can one person do anything?”
Then he said he realized that alone, a single person couldn’t accomplish much.
“You’ve got to get others involved,” Dove said.
He said whoever the Yadkin group selects for its RiverKeeper, the individual must have a tough skin.
“He’ll have one friend, and that will be the river,” Dove said. “Some people won’t be happy, those who have been polluting for years. People will respect him, though they may not like him at the moment.”
He suggested that board members look for a “junkyard dog. Someone willing to scrap.”
Board members noted at Tuesday’s meeting that the Yadkin/Pee Dee River Basin is North Carolina’s second-largest. They said that while the individual selected as RiverKeeper won’t command a high salary, they probably won’t seek to fill the position until they’ve got $70,000 in their coffers.
Melton, the board members who organized Tuesday’s gathering, reminded those in attendance that no one has to be an official RiverKeeper to help the river.
She encouraged those who live along any body of water ó a creek or a cove ó to be vigilant about what they see, reminding the group that all trash is eventually carried to a river.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Montie Hamby, a board member, gave a slide show featuring pictures he’s taken during cleanup days along the Yadkin.
The slide show included, as Hamby said, “The good, the bad and the ugly.”
His show included a picture of the corpse of a cow that had gone to the river to drink, become mired in silt and died. The corpse of the cow’s calf was close by.
But Hamby also showed the picture of an eagle that had built a nest in a tree along the river’s edge. In the nest were tiny eaglets, barely visible in the picture.
Hamby said the picture was proof that conditions along the Yadkin River are improving.
“We didn’t have eagles in the upper Yadkin six years ago,” he said.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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