Funds donated for Wrightsville rain garden tour

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A number of projects around Wrightsville Beach keep polluted stormwater from entering local waterways, and soon people will be able to take a self-guided tour to learn more about them.

The N.C. Coastal Federation’s southeast branch recently received a $2,500 grant from RBC Wealth Management to create signage, printed brochures and a website to inform the public about the variety of retrofitted natural and manmade elements around town that divert stormwater.

“I think there’s people even around Wrightsville Beach that aren’t aware that they’re there,” RBC Wealth Management senior vice president David Dupont said of the rain gardens, swales, pervious pavement and retrofitted pipes, curbs and gutters. “It’s really interesting work that I think is significant, so we want to support it and promote it.”

Signage will indicate the start of the tour, called “Walk the Loop for Clean Water,” at the federation’s office on W. Salisbury Street. The office will have brochures outlining the location and details of each of the projects and those taking a self-guided tour can find further information on the tour’s website.

The federation will also offer guided tours, southeast office manager Tracy Skrabal added.

RBC Wealth Management awarded the grant because the Coastal Federation’s clean water efforts are in line with RBC’s Blue Water Project, an initiative to help provide drinkable, fishable and swimmable water for current and future generations.

“It was a combination of us looking to do something with a local nonprofit and something that tied into the clean water initiative that we have going on with the company, so it just seemed to make sense,” Dupont said.

Dupont is a Wrightsville Beach resident who frequently swims in Banks Channel, so he said he is “particularly concerned when it’s not really that clean out there.”

After the signage, brochures and websites are created, Skrabal hopes to receive more grant money to incorporate the self-guided tours into a K-12 curriculum. New Hanover County students already learn about stormwater, she said, so this would allow them to see the practical application of their knowledge.

In addition to touring the existing stormwater projects, students could learn simple ways to divert stormwater in their own backyards by creating small rain gardens or using a flexible tube to reroute downspout outflow from impervious pavement into pervious soil.

Curriculum objectives might include “following the raindrop’s journey,” coastal education coordinator Ted Wilgis said.

“Students will learn where the stormwater comes from, where it flows to and how these projects interrupt that flow from entering our creeks,” Wilgis said.

Besides the practical education, there are other benefits to a curriculum component outside the classroom, Skrabal added.

“We try to provide the out-of-the-box teaching, getting them out of the class, and it ties in with our clean water mission,” she said. “And it doesn’t hurt to get them out and give them some physical fitness too.”

email emmy@luminanews.com

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