“We could have put together an entire car with the amount of tire parts we found in the river.”
Duke Ison, with the Winston-Salem Chapter of Blue Ridge Trout Unlimited, was describing the amount of trash they found in the Ararat River, in the area along the Greenway Trail, where the group conducted a stream cleaning effort on Saturday, beginning at Rowe Environmental Park. The Trout Unlimited Group were assisted by a group from the Blue Ridge Chapter of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, a non-profit group that teaches veterans how to fly fish.
Ison said they found a large amount of tires along riverbanks and submerged in the river, but the group reported its members did not find as much general trash such as cans and water bottles as expected, which shows most of the people who use the trail for recreation purposes are doing their part in eliminating trash in the waste receptacles placed along the trail, or taking trash with them as they leave. There were two areas that had been used as dump sites for large items such as tires, and an old television was submerged in the water at one spot, which the group said they hoped to be able to get out of the river since those types of items can poison the stream, but were unable to do so on Saturday.
This is the third year the chapter has been involved with cleaning efforts along the Ararat River. Ison said it is the closest property to Winston-Salem that is designated as a delayed harvest stream, only about a 30 to 45 minute drive.
“We really appreciate what Mount Airy did with the Greenway Trails and the river. I love to come up here and fish, and do so quite often. This is a real asset to Mount Airy and the only other place I’ve seen like this is in the Hot Springs area,” Ison shared.
The Ararat River is stocked along the Greenway Trail from October through May by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Delayed-harvest trout waters are marked with black-and-white, diamond-shaped signs.
Between Oct. 1 and June 6 this year, due to delayed-harvest regulations, all trout caught in the river must be released. No natural bait is allowed — only single hook, artificial lures. An artificial lure is one that has not been treated with a substance that attracts fish by taste or smell. Visit the department’s website at www.ncwildlife.org for more information.
Ison said that after June 6, people are allowed to keep the trout, since the water typically becomes too hot to sustain the fish.
“People who throw litter, tires, and other items into the river are only hurting themselves, because it hurts the water quality. It really doesn’t take much to pick up your trash, and dispose of it properly,” Ison commented. “We are also finding a lot of worm buckets, and catching the trout with worms is not allowed — only artificial lures.”
Drema Pack with Project Healing Waters said she was also surprised that there was not a lot of general trash, mostly large items, and said that showed how valuable the area is to everyone, and how folks are working together to keep litter out of the river and off of the river banks. Pack also shared that just before cleaning the river on Saturday, it was raising awareness about how important the activity is. “We had a lot of people stopping and talking with us, thanking us for what we are doing and telling us how much they love the Greenway Trail. We also saw a group of Boy Scouts canoeing, which was wonderful.”
Jayne Sommer, president of the Blue Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited, said she has been with the organization since 1978, and became “hooked” on fly fishing a long time ago. “It’s all about respect, and our passion for continuing our mission for clean water, which is not an infinite resource, despite what people think.”
The two groups agreed that they were hoping to see more access points to the river from the Ararat River Greenway Trail in the near future, since it is too steep in many places for people to reach the river. Several members of Project Healing Waters who were cleaning along the river said they hoped to bring veterans to the river to fish at some point, but would be unable to do so until handicapped accessible access points were built, with a smooth and easier grade, for people not only in wheelchairs but for those with mobility issues.
According to the website at www.projecthealingwaters.org, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is dedicated to the rehabilitation, both physically and emotionally, of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans, through fly fishing and associated activities including outings and education.
The Blue Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited is the Winston-Salem chapter of the national association, and according to their website at www.blueridgetu.org, they are “dedicated to conserve, protect, and restore trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.”
Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 and on Twitter @MountAiryJess.