A recreation field near Old Fort won’t get flooded like it once did thanks to the hard work of the McDowell County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Located beside the Catawba River, Lindley Park has two lighted ballfields, one small ballfield, a playground area, tennis courts, two picnic shelters and a concession stand. This popular park, just west of Old Fort along Catawba River Road, is operated by the McDowell County Recreation Department. Its location next to the river makes it a beautiful and tranquil place for outdoor events.

But the river can be a curse as well as a blessing. Many times, the Catawba would overflow its banks and flood the baseball fields. One of the worst incidents happened 13 years ago when the remnants of Hurricanes Frances and Ivan came through here in September 2004.

“All of this was flooded,” said District Technician Evan Crawley as he stood looking around the park.

Events like this also caused the shoreline to become unstable, causing erosion and runoff of soil into the river. That affects the quality of the water in the Catawba.

Fixing this problem would prove to be an ideal project for the McDowell County Soil and Water Conservation District.

This is a local subdivision of state government and it is responsible for conserving soil, water and related natural resources within the district.

To address this situation, officials with the Soil and Water Conservation District were able to get two separate grants: one from the Mountain Valleys Rural Conservation & Development (a non-profit organization) and the other from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. This grant money, along with help from the Mountain Valleys RC&D staff, allowed the district to add a nature trail and stabilize that section of the Catawba flowing past Lindley Park.

New vegetation was planted along the shoreline.

“Those roots are supposed to stabilize this whole area here,” said Crawley, “so we don’t have a washout like we had.”

The shoreline stabilization work was done in two weeks in February and March and the new nature trail was installed in either April or May, according to Crawley.

The end result is not only a more protected shoreline but a park that is better than it was before. The new trail is about a one-third of a mile and it can be reached by any of the three parking lots located around the ballfields. Also, viewing points are open for the public to see the stream restoration of this section of the Catawba. There are also access places for fishing.

“Our hope is that we can get our community interested in preserving our natural resources while providing access to a fishing stream and wildlife areas,” reads a statement from McDowell Soil and Water.

“It’s a long time coming but it’s here,” said Bill Lonon, a former district technician and now a member of the board of supervisors.

Furthermore, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will place kiosks there with information about the wildlife and fishing, according to Crawley.

This is only one of the many efforts by the local Soil and Water Conservation District to protect our natural resources in McDowell.

Recently, the local district received a $222,500 grant for the Limekiln Creek effort. This grant will need a matching amount from both the Soil and Water District and the school system to restore 1,400 feet of a stream bank at North Cove Elementary.

In addition, this agency seeks to improve other lands around McDowell County that are prone to flooding and erosion. Most importantly, it seeks to conserve the natural resources in McDowell.

The McDowell Soil and Water Conservation District’s mission is “to ensure our county has clean water, protected soil resources, properly managed forest and wildlife, and an environmentally, economically and culturally viable agricultural community.”

Located at 25 S. Garden St., the Soil and Water office is run by three staff people. The Board of Supervisors, who are both elected by the people and appointed, make policy and major decisions.

As district technician, Crawley provides assistance to landowners with their natural resources. The agency also has money that can be used for soil conservation.

“It has to be due to water quality concerns,” he said. “We get allocations from the state yearly. We can provide technical assistance to anyone and give the landowner advice on how to control erosion.”

Also, representatives from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provide technical assistance.

You can even rent equipment from the agency. McDowell Soil and Water has a 6-foot-wide no-till seed drill and a weed wiper to help get rid of weeds and other unwanted plants.

The McDowell County Soil and Water Conservation District works in such areas as:

  • Soil erosion
  • Animal waste management
  • Stream bank stabilization
  • Pond site assessments
  • Sedimentation
  • Nutrient management
  • Plants for erosion control
  • Storm water control
  • Spring development

“A lot of people don’t know we do all of this,” said Crawley.

For more information, call the McDowell County Soil and Water Conservation District at 652-4434 or visit McDowell SWCD's Website.

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