The Ararat River through Mount Airy is looking a little tidier this week due to efforts by a group of people who do not even live here.
Armed with orange trash bags and wading boots, representatives of the Blue Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Winston-Salem descended upon the popular waterway this past weekend to rid it of trash.
When they were finished, the 12 volunteers had left behind about 20 bags of assorted refuse that had found its way into the river and along its banks, according to Bob Lassiter, a member of the trout group’s governing board.
A number of tires were collected during the outing, some that had to be fished out of the river by volunteers in waterproof gear.
The group that included people of varying age groups covered a section of the river running from Riverside Park to U.S. 52-Business (South Main Street at the Bannertown bridge).
Unique Trout Resource
In surveying what was accomplished, city Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander said the Trout Unlimited volunteers’ service is admirable on several counts.
“To me, what’s amazing is this is a group of individuals that don’t even live here,” Alexander said Tuesday of the cleanup effort that was motivated by a basic goal:
“Because they come up and fish, and fish often enough they consider this (the Ararat River) their home waters, and they want to give back.”
The area of the river targeted by the cleanup is the center portion of a delayed-harvest section, a status afforded to only a limited number of streams in the state. The Ararat River has been listed as the closest-such location to the major population centers of Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
“We’re only 40 minutes away and this project is a fantastic project that you have there,” Lassiter, the Trout Unlimited spokesman, said of a major restoration that has occurred along the Ararat River in recent years.
“It’s really the closest (trout) stream to us and some of us come up and enjoy it,” he added Wednesday — and by the same token the members don’t mind undertaking cleanups. “This is the second time we have come up,” Lassiter said of last weekend’s venture, which the group will continue in the future.
In 2011, it was announced that the Ararat had been re-classified as a delayed-harvest stream in the wake of the project to restore the badly eroded waterway. The deteriorated condition had caused the river to lose its fishery classification.
The re-classification led to a stocking last October and November of more than 3,000 brook, rainbow and brown trout from the bridge at N.C. 103 to a park at B.H. Tharrington Primary School. The accompanying catch-and-release policy in place from October to June was aimed at ensuring the proliferation of an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 trout.
A hatchery-supported status allowed users to haul in a daily limit of seven fish from June to October.
The upgraded status has brought anglers to Mount Airy from the surrounding areas, who have poured dollars into the local economy while here.
Alexander said the fact that the Winston-Salem Trout Unlimited chapter has made the river look much nicer is a tremendous benefit, but she also believes the gesture has symbolic value. It illustrates not only the problems resulting from littering, but the need to educate people about changing their habits to keep the unsightliness and pollution from occurring in the first place, Alexander said.
“It creates a mess that other people have to clean up,” the parks and recreation official added.
“I think their efforts are part of the educational process,” she said of what Trout Unlimited did during the weekend. “I think it sends a great message.”
“We will be coming back,” Lassiter said of future fishing trips to the Ararat River as well as cleanups.
“It’s a nice place to go.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.