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Neuse River Still Attracting Vacationers

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NEW BERN — The Neuse River runs brown with sewage. Add pfiesteria and the dirty water gets worse. Efforts to fix the mess may be years away from showing results, and thousands who live and work along the landmark waterway counton it for paychecks. For them the battle is water quality, and protectingtheir businesses.

Residents were happy to hear that state lawmakers said they wanted toget serious about cleaning up the Neuse River, especially with the LaborDay holiday coming up. Merchants said it appears that the Neuse has onceagain weathered a summer of bad publicity.

Like thousands of other people, Mack and Trish Woodson will spend their Labor Day holiday on the water. The Virginia vacationers said they've heard all about the problems on the Neuse River, especially the pfiesteriaorganism blamed for numerous fish kills in recent years. Still, they'respending their time and money on the Neuse.

The Woodson's aren't the only ones flocking to the area in spite of asummer that has brought bad news for the Neuse almost every week. A Julyfish kill prompted a nearby state park to close its beaches for a fewdays. A few weeks later, the state fined the city of Kinston for dumpingsewage into the Neuse and not reporting it. In spite of all the badpublicity, vacationers aren't ready to give up on the river.

Overall, Craven County has only seen a modest dip in tourism this year. Local hotel owners said they've had no problems attracting guests. HarryBrown, a New Bern resident, believes public opinion about the river may beturning around now that it's getting attention from state lawmakers. TheNeuse River is part of the reason he moved here from New York six yearsago and he said he's still glad he made the switch.

Brown continues to fish out of the Neuse, but he keeps in mind that theorganism pfiesteria could be in the water. He said he checks all of hisfish for sores before he even thinks about eating them.

Merchants said one good thing about state lawmakers seeming to come aroundthat public opinion and morale are up, and they're hoping for big thingsthis Labor Day weekend, especially with the town's big sailboat regatta.

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