Transylvania County Tourism awards $10,000 grant for river cleanup

Press release from Transylvania County Tourism:

Transylvania County Tourism (TCT) provided a $10,000 grant in the spring of 2019 to support the efforts of Transylvania County to keep the French Broad River clear of debris that causes erosion problems and poses a threat to recreational users.

Transylvania Always, a committee of TCT that supports the preservation of Transylvania County’s natural recreational resources to create a safe and enjoyable user experience, identified the need and directed the funds.  

High water events, triggered by heavy rains, often create dangerous conditions on the French Broad, including “strainers” (obstructions such as trees or root systems that allow water to pass through, but hold objects such as boats and people) and “sweepers” (overhead obstructions that can “sweep” a paddler from a boat).

In Transylvania County, maintenance and clearing of large obstacles on the French Broad is handled by the Transylvania County Soil and Water Department with support from key local individuals such as David Whitmire with Headwaters Outfitters.

Transylvania County provides $25,000 annually for these larger-scale clean ups. The Transylvania County Soil and Water Department administers these projects and hires independent contractors to do the work.

In recent years, a series of unprecedented storm events have created more than the usual number of strainers and sweepers on the river, exhausting the resources available to deal with the obstacles.

The $10,000 awarded by TCT went to the Soil and District Water District and funded the removal of several debris jams.

“We think this is a great opportunity to support the efforts of Transylvania County and the many volunteers and organizations that devote so much time and effort to keeping the French Broad clean and navigable,” said Charlie Landreth, chairperson of Transylvania Always.

In recent years, the French Broad has increased in popularity with anglers, kayakers, canoeists, paddleboarders and tubers. Thanks, in part, to the establishment of the French Broad River Paddle Trail in 2014, which allows boaters to paddle and camp along the river’s entire length.

According to David Whitmire, co-owner of Headwaters Outfitters with his wife, Debi, approximately 30,000-40,000 people enjoy the French Broad River in Transylvania County annually. Users include individuals, church groups, summer camps and visitors on paid float trips through local businesses like Headwaters. April through October are the most popular times of year for visitors to the river.

“I can’t express how important this funding support by Transylvania County Tourism is to the French Broad River,” said Whitmire. “We had a very wet winter and spring, which contributed to the creation of an unprecedented number of obstacles. Having the resources to clear these obstacles as we head into the summer means a safer river for everyone.”

Jeff Parker, Soil and Water Conservation District Director for Transylvania County, was especially pleased with the timing of the grant award.

“Thanks to the additional funding we were able to clear a significant debris jam off of Old Hendersonville Highway the week of May 20th where two people had been rescued earlier that month,” said Parker.

In addition to that jam, the funds helped Parker’s team clear three additional jams that presented a danger to river users. 

Parker agreed that the unusually wet weather has a direct impact on the number of obstructions on the river.

“Just as an example, we got nine inches of rain on Good Friday,” said Parker. “Not surprisingly, we’re about to start our 12th cleanup for this fiscal year, which is more than we traditionally do.”

Clark Lovelace, Executive Director of TCT, lauded the work of Transylvania Always as an important component of TCT.

“This grant speaks directly to the kind of work that Transylvania Always is striving to do: enhancing and protecting our extraordinary natural environment while looking after the safety of those who want to explore our rivers and woods.”

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