TODD — Preventative measures are being taken to ensure that a High Country community’s gem of a park remains intact for the generations to come.

Situated in the center of the New River, Todd Island Park, located off Railroad Grade Road outside of Todd has long suffered from an erosion problem. Over time, the park — which is only accessible by boat or bridge — has seen portions of itself wash downstream. This makes the river access dangerous for boaters and anglers attempting to access the park’s Mountain Heritage Trout Waters and adds sediment to the water which can effect wildlife.

“It’s the storms. When we get a heavy rain storm the water will get within a foot of the bottom of that bridge,” said Rick Weavil, treasurer of the Todd Community Preservation Organization while gesturing toward the park’s pedestrian bridge. “This whole parking lot will be flooded.”

To combat the issue the park’s owners — the Todd Community Preservation Organization — has recruited help from several outside agencies to assist them in a restoration project designed to lessen the environmental impact on the park.

Phase I of the project, which has already been completed, called for bank grading, the planting of native trees, shrubs and grasses and the addition of rock veins and other structures which help control the flow of water and serve as habitat for wildlife. What may resemble bothersome undergrowth to some park visitors, is actually helping to keep the island in place, with the roots from the plants helping keep soil from washing downstream. Phase II of the project, which should begin by September will continue the introduction of native plants across the rest of the island, and add more rock veins and fish habitats.

“The process in going magnificently. I don’t think I had pictured how well it would go, it went better than I expected,” said Deirdra Piegarie, president of the TCPO.

The TCPO does not expect any park closures relating to Phase II of the restoration, but may have to fence off certain areas of the park that are being worked on.

Involved in the project are several local, regional and state organizations such as the NC Division of of Water Resources who contributed $70,850 in grants to the project, New River Conservancy who has contributed a $11,000 grant for plants, and Partners for Fish and Wildlife which contributed $25,000.

Likewise, the TCPO itself has contributed $10,000 to the project, as well as both Ashe and Watauga Counties who have each added $15,000 to the restoration’s budget. Other contributors and project partners include Foggy Mountain Nursery, New River Soil and Water Conservation District, Blue Ridge Conservation and Development Council, NC Wildlife Resource Commission, US Fish and Wildlife Service, NC Department of Environmental Quality and NC State Parks.

“Our hope is that it is now more protected than it was before,” said Weavil.

“All these families that are here with their kids, I want to see more,” continued Piegarie, stating her hopes for the future. “I want to see more families, the kids playing in the park, the families feeling safe here and having it be a great place to be able to come. That’s my ultimate goal and that’s where we’re heading.”

To learn more about the Todd Island Park Restoration Project visit http://toddnc.org/about-tcpo-2/current-projects/todd-island-park-river-restoration-project/.

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