River Restoration Aids Mount Airy

Much attention has been paid to revitalizing downtowns in North Carolina by adding storefronts and parking garages. But one town has learned that they can build up their community with the natural landscape that was there initially.

Since 2002, the town of Mount Airy has worked with Resource Institute to develop the Ararat Greenway and Stream Restoration project, which loops around downtown Mount Airy for seven miles.

Catrina Alexander, director of the town’s Parks and Recreation Dept., said the activity generated by the trail is contagious.

“We’ve always had a lot of pride for feeling like that small slice of Americana and we’ve just been very fortunate to have a very vibrant downtown with energy,” Alexander said. “Well, now that energy has a sprawl.”

A study by the Piedmont Triad Council of Government and the UNC-Greensboro Tourism Program estimated the Ararat River Restora­tion and Greenway Project generates $500,000 annually for the community in the form of increased business.

The project was partially made possible by support from Resource Institute, which connects communities with available funds for restoration projects.

According to Alexander, in addition to creating economic activity, the trail also has in­creased physical activity for everyone.

“It’s also taken away the socio-economic factors as it relates to access,” she said. “So regardless of a person’s economic situation, they now have access to resources that keep them healthier, get them into nature and really connect them with the community.”

By managing the water running through Mount Airy’s downtown, the greenway also protects the city’s infrastructure, including sewer lines, roads and bridges.

Resource Institute provides assistance in funding projects across the country. The organization currently has 45 projects in North Car­olina.

Stephanie Carson, N.C. News Service