ROCKINGHAM — Conservation efforts by the city will be honored in Raleigh in September by the N.C. Wildlife Federation.
According to a letter dated July 14, the city of Rockingham was chosen as the federation’s Municipal Conservationist of the Year as part of the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards program.
“This award recognizes the tremendous effort put forward by the city and its many partners over the years to protect and preserve our local natural resources,” City Manager Monty Crump said in an email to city council members and other local leaders announcing the honor. “Additional enhancements of providing public access along with safe and sustainable use of these resources by people of all walks of life and ages is something that we now see in our community every day.”
The city was nominated by local attorney Bill Webb, who Crump called a “noted and well-recognized conservationist in his own right.”
In his nomination letter, dated June 24, Webb said that for a small rural town, Rockingham’s vision toward stewardship of natural resources and the public’s ability to enjoy them “is indeed compelling.”
“The background Rockingham is emerging from is very similar to other rural North Carolina communities,” Webb wrote. With a rich textile heritage in a count where farming tobacco was kind, the movement of textile jobs offshore and the cessation of the federal quota system for tobacco were devastating to both Rockingham and Richmond County.
“However, city of Rockingham leadership envisioned a rebirth and resurgence of this community based on the strengths of its natural resources, and the quality of life that flows from the wise use of those resources,” he continued.
Webb cited the Hinson Lake Project and the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail as two “superlative” uses of the city’s resources.
“The Hinson Lake Project is a multi-use facility with a beautiful lake, walking trails, boating, fishing, jobbing and wildlife viewing,” he said. “This the first urban Wildlife Conservation Area in the state and could not have come to frution without the help onf the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.”
Webb described Hitchcock Creek as “beautiful” and “unique” as it makes its way throug the city.
“It is one of only four streams that flow west from the Coastal Plain to the Piedmont,” he wrote. “The 14-mile Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail winds through Rockingham and offers paddlers glimpses into unique natural places, history, floodplain forests, rare plants and wildlife and flows to the Pee Dee River. Once it empties into the Pee Dee, there is a three-mile or so float down to the primitive campground and takeout.”
Webb also mentioned the city’s partnership with America Rivers and other conservation organizations and their efforts to acheive higher minimum flows in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River “so as to increase benefit to aquatic habitat, greater public access and increased recreational opportunities.”
This past April, the river was named by American Rivers as the No. 6 most-endangered river in the nation.
Crump said the city has been involved in a legal battle, which is currently in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, over the water flows for nearly 20 years.
“Sound conservation methods and the ability to provide access to great natural resources rarely comes by words alone but by vision and hard work,” Webb concluded.
“There is every reason to believe,” said Crump, “that as a result of these efforts to protect , preserve and sustain our natural local resources we will reap the benefits of increases in quality of life, resource awareness and community and economic development for many years to come.”
Rockingham’s conservation efforts with Hitchcock Creek led to the city being named the N.C. municipal conservationist of the year.
Hinson Lake was also named by local attorney Bill Webb as one of the reason’s the city should be honored as the municipal conservationist of the year.