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Cape Fear River Watch Conservation Project, USA

3 Months from

minimum age

  • Help to conserve the environmental and water quality of the Cape Fear river basin
  • Get involved with the local community on advocacy and awareness projects
  • Gain experience in river conservation techniques and running outreach projects
  • Spend your free time surfing, boating and exploring downtown Wilmington

About the Environmental Conservation Project

Conservation volunteers in canoe Cape Fear RiverCape Fear River Watch is a non-profit organisation working towards protecting and improving the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River Basin in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA, through environmental education, advocacy and action.

We have places for environmental volunteers to join for 3 month periods  to take part in the following projects:

  • Greenfield Lake Eco-Tours – environmental volunteers will be trained to take visitors out on ecotours on the lake, and identify to wetland birds and trees to the visitors on boats.
  • Paddle Series – environmental volunteers will paddle a different stretch of the region’s diverse waterways every month. The Cape Fear River watershed is a paddler’s paradise with stretches of water for nearly every taste.
  • Water Quality Monitoring – environmental volunteers will carry out water quality monitoring
  • Rain Garden Education and Maintenance – building and maintenance of the rain garden.
  • Summer Eco Camps – environmental volunteers can help to design and then conduct a summer programme with students.
  • Office renovation and assistance
  • River Cleanups – mostly done on canoes and kayaks.

For detailed descriptions of each project, please see below.

1. Greenfield Lake

Greenfield Lake is a historic treasure located near downtown Wilmington. It is a unique cypress-ringed freshwater lake in a city park just minutes from downtown Wilmington, NC. This amazingly preserved example of Cypress Dome Ecology, ringed by a 5 mile paved walking/biking path, features beautiful gardens (it was the original location of the famous NC Azalea Festival), a 900 seat amphitheater, a boat ramp, picnic areas, playgrounds, tennis courts, a skate park and more.

Less than 100 years ago a bottled water company was bottling and selling the spring-fed waters of the Lake. Later rapid urban development, excessive stormwater runoff and nutrient pollution severely stressed the lake, making it unsightly and unappealing. CFRW has been working closely with Wilmington’s Parks & Recreation and Stormwater Services departments to protect and restore Greenfield Lake’s ecology and today we operate a small boat house (paddle boats, canoes and kayaks for rent by the hour) on this hidden ecological gem.

Greenfield Lake Eco-Tours

Small groups learn all about Greenfield Lake’s history, current uses, flora and fauna on a trip led by the interns. Special trips with a focus on wildlife, migrating birds, and plant and animal identification have also been very popular.

Seasonal Nature Tours

Interns canoeing on Lake Cape Fear

Greenfield Lake and Cape Fear River Watch offers guided birding tours on the lake. As interns, you will learn to identify the Widgeons, Gadwalls, Cormorants and Egrets that roost in and around the Bald Cypress that dominate the lake. Great Blue Herons, Anhingas, and more variety of duck than seem reasonable also call the waters of the lake their winter home. You will also learn to identify the Long Leaf Pine, Live Oak, Magnolia, Dogwood and other wetland forest trees surrounding the lake that play host to many varieties of Warbler, Nuthatch, Flycatcher and Vireos. The one-hour tours will be led by the interns once you have been trained.

Paddleboats, Canoes and Kayaks are available for rent. You will work at the boathouse renting water vessels to visitors. All proceeds from the rentals benefit programmes that help to carry out the mission to protect and improve the water quality of the lower Cape Fear River through education, advocacy, and action. The Greenfield Lake programme is a cooperative effort among Cape Fear River Watch, The United Way, and the city of Wilmington, North Carolina.

2. Paddle Series

Each month we paddle a different stretch of the region’s diverse waterways. We may explore a primeval, twisty stretch of blackwater creek one month and the next month will see us in the saltwater marshes and beaches of the estuarine lower reaches of the river. The Cape Fear River watershed is a paddler’s paradise with stretches of water for nearly every taste. Our main goal with the monthly paddles is recreational. We’re not racing and we keep the advocacy and the science to a minimum (though we’re always happy to point out interesting features.) Our underlying goal is simple. The best way to get to know a river is to get out on it. Walk its banks. Fish it. Paddle it. Pretty soon you’ll want to share the river with others and protect it for generations to come.

You will help lead these paddle series after some instruction from our River Keeper, Kemp Burdette.

3. Water Quality Monitoring

You will have the opportunity to make basic water quality observations through our CreekWatchers Programme, which is a citizen science program freshly launched by CFRW.

The programme will provide support possibly including technical assistance in monitoring design, equipment use, data management and analysis.

4. Rain Garden and Maintenance

Storm water is the largest pollution problems across the United States and the Cape Fear River is no exception. Rain gardens are one attractive solution to storm water pollution. Rain gardens are shallow depressions planted with special water tolerant species of plants that thrive in wet conditions. Runoff from roofs and parking lots are captured and directed into the rain gardens, filtering through the soil and naturally removing pollutants. An added advantage is mosquitoes won’t have time to breed, because the water drains within a day. This also reduces the load on the sewer system, and the amount of lawn chemicals and pet wastes that would otherwise have drained into the sewer system making its way to rivers and lakes.

You will have the opportunity to learn how to design and build a rain garden. A rain garden thrives at the Cape Fear River Watch headquarters, where team members will check in on a daily basis. You will be responsible for maintaining the rain garden, as well as other projects associated with the building.

5. Summer Eco Camps

Cape fear river watch visitors standAn Education/Outreach programme. You will have a heavy role in conducting this summer programme, and can expect to work for about half of their internship as summer camp counsellors. The camps will accommodate approximately 15 – 20 students who will gain a diverse and complimentary learning experience through a combination of field and experiential work. It will offer students a deep understanding of the unique setting in which the Cape Fear River Basin is located and the pivotal role this region has played in local and global affairs, particularly in relation to the environment. Volunteers and the local Literacy Council can work together to provide free lessons in speaking better English.

6. Office Renovation and Assistance

Cape Fear River Watch experiences the same funding issues as most NGOs do. They are not in a position to hire professional painters, carpenters, electricians, etc. Many updates are needed to the CFRW headquarters on the river. You may assist staff with these types of projects.

7. River Cleanups

In 2009 Cape Fear River Watch volunteers picked up over 15,000 pounds of trash from local watersheds during our Second Saturday Clean-ups. In 2011 and 2012, this number increased as we added new areas and increased the number of volunteers who came out to clean up their watershed.

As with previous years’ Greenfield clean-ups, this year’s effort will include both land and water components. Since so much of the shoreline is approachable only by water, many volunteers will be using canoes and kayaks to get where the trash lies. Sometimes it seems that azalea bushes exist solely to catch blowing McDonald’s wrappers! You will be asked to scope out areas needing to be targeted for the monthly clean-ups. Once those areas are identified, you will help organise and lead the clean-ups.

Cape Fear River Watch Conservation Project, USA

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