WEST JEFFERSON — New River Conservancy and New River State Park have partnered to repair riverbank erosion and restore stream vegetation at the Elk Shoals access of the New River State Park.
Elk Shoals, which sits on 270 acres of land along three miles of the New River, is a former Methodist Church camp that was added to New River State Park in December 2018. It includes a includes a swim beach, a former chapel, hiking trails and other amenities.
This river restoration project included reshaping the riverbank, native tree planting and the installation of engineered rock structures, called rock vanes, to stabilize the bank to prevent riverbank erosion.
Excessive erosion was previously undermining the beach area parking lot and was contributing sediment to the river, which threatens aquatic life and their habitat. In 2019, NRC applied for and received funding from the North Carolina Department of Justice’s Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, whose objective is to help improve and protect North Carolina’s natural resources.
Of all the rivers in the state of North Carolina, the New River has among the highest water quality with both American Heritage and Federal Scenic River Status. The New River in Ashe County has a high percentage of state-designated High Quality Waters and Outstanding Resource Waters labels, but due to increased riverfront development, a recently completed NRC study of 26 miles of the South Fork New River shows progressive degradation of vegetated stream buffers that are vital to protecting the water quality.
The goal of this project is to stabilize and restore the vegetated riverbank in order to protect the high quality water of the New River.
“I appreciate all the work that New River Conservancy has done in partnership with New River State Park to restore the river bank along the river,” said New River State Park Superintendent Joseph Shimel. “This project is a critical and timely project that will benefit not only the users of Elk Shoals Access, but improve the water quality of the river as well. Projects like this protect the New River for years to come.”
NRSP, NRC and contractor Foggy Mountain Nursery & Stream Restoration have roped off the project area to protect it from disturbance and ask that the public refrain from entering the project area until the vegetation is established.
This riverbank restoration is part of Phase 1 of the effort to “ReWild” Elk Shoals, which includes demolition of two derelict buildings, improving the beach area, riverbank restoration and preparing the chapel to reopen as a public meeting space. The effort to ReWild Elk Shoals is ongoing, and community support is appreciated. Find out how you can support the effort to ReWild, ReOpen, and ReIntroduce Elk Shoals by visiting www.newriverconservancy.org/elkshoals.php.
NRC and NRSP are working diligently to create a safe and healthy New River where we all live, work and play. New River Conservancy’s mission is to protect the waters, woodlands and wildlife of the New River Watershed.