RALEIGH, N.C. — Water from the Neuse River becomes tap water for more than 200,000 people in Wake and Johnston counties, but a national conservation group says it's one of the 10 most endangered rivers in the country.
For Rob Prokop, spending time with his kayak, his paddle, and his 6-year old son Nathaniel on the Neuse is quality time well spent. However, he said he grows more concerned each year that the quality of the river is running out of time.
“A lot of things as we've paddled along the river, we've seen spills coming in and people draining into the river,” Prokop said. “That type of thing needs to be stopped.”
Each spring, volunteers pull trash from the Neuse. They've collected 74,000 pounds of it in the last 5 years – 22,000 pounds just last week.
“We're hoping that at some point the trash totals start going down, because it means we're making a positive impact in terms of removing all the trash,” said Dean Naujoks, an Upper Neuse river-keeper.
American Rivers listed the Neuse River as the eighth most endangered river in the country. The nonprofit conservation group blames poorly planned development around the river.
Raleigh is working to slow some of the damage with tougher development rules. However, paddlers at this weekend's Neuse River Festival said they can sense the impact of growth.
“You could hear the building going on in neighborhoods along the river last time we went down it,” said paddler Greg Stone.
People who have worked at the festival for a long time said the landscape along the river has changed. One of the biggest changes has been the U.S. Highway 64 bypass.
“A lot of people know (the river) exists,” said Kathy Capps with Raleigh’s Parks and Recreation Department. “They've traveled over it on Highway 64 or Capital Boulevard. But a lot of people haven't been out on it before.”
It’s the 11th year for the Neuse River Festival, where more than 100 people paddled 3.5 miles down the river and then ate, played games and enjoyed music at Anderson Point Park.