Safer Swimming

What: Oak Island Community Clean Water Day
When: Saturday, June 15th • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Waterway Park, 1504 E. Yacht Dr. and Arboretum Park, Oak Island
Cost: Free!
Info: (910) 509-2838 •

Two locations on Oak Island will benefit from the labor of eager volunteers this month, as the North Carolina Coastal Federation will host a Community Clean Water Day on Saturday, June 15th. No, folks won’t be testing drinking water from the tap—they’ll actually help build a rain garden and salt marsh to reduce stormwater pollution and restore the island’s coastal habitats.

“Arboretum Park was experiencing significant stormwater run-off after rainfall events,” Ted Wilgis, biologist and Coastal Education Coordinator for NC Coastal Federation, explains. “It proved to be a good site with the right amount of area and suitable soils to create a rain garden to capture, absorb and treat this stormwater.”

Volunteers work to build a salt-marsh habitat at a previous Community Clean Water Day sponsored by the NC Coastal Federation. Courtesy photo

Volunteers work to build a salt-marsh habitat at a previous Community Clean Water Day sponsored by the NC Coastal Federation. Courtesy photo

Likewise, Waterway Park’s salt-marsh habitat was in danger of complete loss due to erosion from boat wakes, and a portion of the shoreline had a fair amount of debris on the bank and in the water, Wilgis says. Thus in March the federation and the Town of Oak Island utilized volunteers to build an oyster reef along this section of the park’s shoreline. The oysters will help filter water while providing a safe home for marsh creatures. The reef is part of a living-shoreline project that is being implemented by the town and the federation.

“The living shoreline consists of a 200-foot-long by eight-foot-wide oyster reef made up of bags of oyster shells placed by volunteers,” Wilgis describes. “Between the oyster reef and the upland area, salt-marsh habitat will be protected, enhanced and restored with additional plants. The salt marsh and oyster reef will provide valuable habitat for a number of plants and animals including shrimp, crabs, flounder, red drum, and speckled trout. The reef and salt marsh will also help to filter sediments, nutrients (from fertilizers and pet waste), and harmful bacteria (from pet waste) that is in any stormwater that might flow off the nearby park, streets and yards.”

Native plants will be used in the rain garden which will be installed at Arboretum Park. Wilgis says the plants, along with mulch and soil, will help to slow down stormwater run-off, allowing it to soak into the ground. The ground will filter and absorb the pollutants contained in the run-off—rather than enabling it to enter our coastal waters.

Of course, the NC Coastal Federation will need help from the island community to accomplish such goals. Locals and tourists alike are welcome to join in on the Clean Water Day from 10 a.m. to noon. Volunteers will receive water, sports drinks and lunch as thanks. All project supplies and equipment will be provided. Volunteers may get wet and dirty—which is part of the fun—so be sure to wear appropriate clothing and closed-toe shoes, which are required. The event is suitable for all ages.

“Each year hundreds of volunteers donate thousands of hours of hard work helping with federation projects up and down the coast,” Wilgis tells. “Without this incredible effort, the federation would not be able to get these projects completed. Besides the help with the projects, the volunteers also come away with an increased awareness of and connection to the coast. We hope this helps them continue to be active stewards of the coastal environment, engage their family and friends in these efforts, and become members of the federation.”

From noon to 2 p.m., anyone can join the Clean Water Day celebration, which will be held at Waterway Park (1504 E. Yacht Dr.). Trolley Stop will be on hand selling hot dogs, chips and drinks, while Sunset Slush will offer its Italian ice.

“There will be educational displays on stormwater, including an interactive model and demonstrations on how to set up a rain barrel or reroute a downspout,” Wilgis shares. “There will be folks talking about sea turtles, blue crabs, oysters and animals from the Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter. People will be able to see a number of these live animals and experience them up close with a touch tank. There will also be displays on native plants, local fish with Brunswick Catch, and products from nearby Greenlands Farm.”

There will also be giveaways and a raffle, including the prize of a rain barrel. Folks can participate in a cast-net throwing competition, too. “As long as the tide cooperates,” Wilgis continues, “we will offer the opportunity to pull a seine net along the shoreline. You never know what you will catch, but we often get to see crabs, shrimp and a variety of small/juvenile fish. The creatures will be placed temporarily into small aquariums so people can see them up close and learn about them from an educator on hand.”

Kids also will be able to experience fish printing on free T-shirts. “Fish printing comes from Gyotaku, which is the traditional method of Japanese fish printing, dating from the mid-1800s,” Wilgis explains. “Ink or paint is applied to a fish and then rice paper is placed on the fish to capture the print and memorialize your catch. We’ll be doing a simplified version using molds of various fish and fabric paint.”

For more information on the Oak Island Community Clean Water Day, call the federation at (910) 509-2838.

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