All posts by Kim Matthews

November Message from the Executive Director

Greeting Wetland Supporters:

We hope you had an interesting Halloween. Which begs the question should we have a spooky wetland tour?  If anyone has any ideas as to how this might be done or what it would consist of, we would love to hear your ideas.

Speaking of wetland tours, our 2023 Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas will be selected over the next few weeks.  If you would like to nominate a wetland, please contact Program Coordinator, Molly Nifong. The wetlands must be located in North or South Carolina and be wetlands of ecological significance. The full criteria is available on our nominations webpage

Typically, our wetland tours are currently focused on our Wetland Treasures and are conducted in May durring American Wetlands Month. On occasion, we have hosted tours at other times of the year.  Our most recent tour is on November 5th at Wambaw Swamp in South Carolina.  Only once did we tour a wetland that was not a Wetland Treasure, and that was of a restored wetland in Duke Forest.

We are looking to expand our wetland tours to different kinds of wetlands, such as restored wetlands, constructed wetlands, wetlands in the process of being restored or  wetlands that are helping to mitgiate floods such as the wetlands assocatied with our Stony Run watershed project. We are planning to offer these tours in 2023, so be sure to follow us on Facebook, and check our Webpage and newsletter for announcements.

I would like to hear from you on your ideas for wetland tours or if you like the ideas I listed above. Contact me at  Your input and interest will help a lot in our planning.  In the meantime, take a trip to a wetland and explore the fall beauty our most precious resource.

Rick Savage

Executive Director

Explore Roberston Millpond

Please join us for a unique opportunity to explore Robertson Millpond

When: October 22, 2022

Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm

Reserve a kayak or bring your own vessel (kayak, canoe, paddle board) for a one hour time slot at either 10:00 am or 11:00 am.

Kayak Rentals: Click HERE to reserve and pay for your kayak with Tar River Life (onsite at Robertson Millpond) so it is ready for you when you arrive at the park. There are 8 single kayaks and 4 tandem kayaks available on October 22nd so we recommend reserving your kayak as soon as possible.

We will explore the pond as a group and follow the 1.15 miles long trail through this beautiful cypress swamp.

Please arrive 15 minutes early and meet at the shelter near the parking lot.

Be sure to reserve your kayak HERE and PLEASE let us know if you can make it by emailing

August Message from the Executive Director

Greeting Wetland Supporters:

As I write this message, I am in the new office of the Carolina Wetlands Association.  It is critical advancement to our organizational growth and maturity. Located in downtown Cary, NC, the office gives me, our two contractor employees, and others a place to work and meet.  Many of our active volunteers have also taken advantage of this space to meet and to work on committee business.  The office is big enough for three people work comfortably.  And we have had three of us working in the office several times, especially when it is time to work on grants.

Carolina Wetlands Association Office

We have access to a 25-person conference room which we used to host our July Board meeting. The first time we were able to meet in person since January 2020! The conference room is available to host committee and project meetings as well as meet with our partners.  The Volunteer Wetland Monitoring Program will be meeting later in August.

There is also a “breakout work area” with a table and seats up to eight people when we just need some extra space to work and not have to schedule the conference room.  There is also a small balcony area with two small tables to work and meet when the weather is nice (definitely not in this heat however!).

Conference Room
Balcony Meeting Space

This addition of office and meeting space for the Association now allows us to have a real physical address.  We can store our belongings such as our event materials (posters, kid’s activities, brochures, etc.), a donated laptop, a printer, and books on wetlands, freshwater ecology, climate change, nonprofits. (Note: the books are available for borrowing – just let me know).

It is with your support we continue to grow and advocate for the importance of wetlands and their many ecosystem services.  So come by and visit, the physical address of the Carolina Wetlands Association is:  201 W. Chatham St., Suite 219, Cary, NC 27511.  We will be most happy to see you

Cary Innovation Center

After you visit the office, go explore the wetlands in and around Cary, you will be glad you did.  Thanks for your continued support.

Rick Savage, Executive Director

Op Ed: Environmental Justice in Rochester Heights, North Carolina

Written by Bella Teza

Why is environmental racism still plaguing our society? After World War II, a housing boom stormed the country, and many cities, including the city of Raleigh, North Carolina, began to develop new housing communities. As predominately white neighborhoods began to develop north of the downtown center of Raleigh, predominately minority and low-income communities were being developed south of the city (Elia-Warnken, 2020). Increased segregation began to grow within the city, and predominately white neighborhoods prospered with easy access to downtown Raleigh and natural features, such as streams and parks.

On the other hand, predominately minority communities were not given these benefits, and housing contracts made it virtually impossible for residents to leave the community. The Rochester Heights neighborhood, consisting of mainly African American residents, was developed in the late 1950s and was placed directly on the floodplain of the Walnut Creek Watershed (Little, 2012). Since Hurricane Fran in 1996, residents have faced the negative impacts of this floodplain, as reoccurring damage to homes and community centers continues as a result of this community’s misplacement.

The rich history of this community and its placement begs the question of the interests and intentions of local officials, as well as environmental justice and equity.

As time has passed, many have begun to seek solutions to this problem that plagues the Rochester Heights community. In addition to flooding, NC State’s Dr. Louie Rivers explains that within most of these predominately African American communities in the Raleigh area lies PCB-laced soil (NCSU, 2021). This contaminated soil is the result an illegal toxic dump and puts an increased burden on these communities.

Rochester Heights, Raleigh NC (

As the problems that infect this community are considered, institutions, including North Carolina State University, are taking steps to aid this community in combating the environmental injustices that it has faced for many years. American Rivers initially funded a study to survey residents of the Rochester Heights neighborhood and discovered that flooding was the community’s top frustration (NSCU Staff, 2019).

In a response to this ongoing community outreach, the St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, an important center for the community, hosted one of the first green infrastructure projects (Klahre, 2019). The goal of this project was to both create a rain garden that slows runoff while flooding, and filter the pollutants brought in with the water.

In addition to projects hosted by the community itself, restoration of environmental justice in the community has obtained a strong backing by the city of Raleigh.

In the past, the wetlands that existed south to the Rochester Heights neighborhood were neglected and undeveloped; the city of Raleigh even used the land to dump sewage (Klahre, 2019). In the mid-1990s, a group known as Partners for Environmental Justice led an initiative that conducted the creation of the Walnut Creek Wetland Park. In 1998, the group was given a $16,000 grant by the Triangle Community Foundation to fund a cleanup of the wetlands, and lead initiatives to alleviate flooding in the Rochester Heights area (Klahre, 2019). The park was gifted a ten-million-dollar bond for its development, commissioned by the city as reparations for years of environmental degradation (McLeod, 2022).

The mission of this community center is to "make people aware of the importance of wetlands for clean water, habitat, and recreation while emphasizing the importance of human interaction with nature."

As the park flourished, initiatives within the neighborhood itself grew tremendously. Ross Andrews, the wetland center’s first director, began the Neighborhood Ecology Corps, a program used to help neighborhood middle schoolers engage with the environment. The program utilizes grants from the city to work on service projects, such as cleaning up streams and removing invasive species (Klahre, 2019).

The neighborhood is slowly being incorporated into the park itself, and to this day at least two community wide cleanups happen each year. As the creek is continually being restored, pollution in the area has decreased, and development upstream in recent years has offset the water that flows towards Rochester Heights.

The story of the Rochester Heights neighborhood and its restoration is a prime example of environmental injustices that occur each day throughout the country. Low-income and minority groups continuously fall victim to unequal housing developments. Throughout the country, neighborhoods such as these are placed near toxic waste facilities, factories, and fall victim to unhealthy amounts of pollutants. Why do developers and city planners continue to show blatant displays of environmental racism? The problem itself falls to the racial bias of the country and shows how wealth ultimately determines the health of the nation’s citizens.

What can citizens do to show their voice against environmental racism? People must first education themselves on the matter and investigate instances of injustices that occur within their own cities and communities. It is important to amplify the voices of victims and support local leaders of change. By holding government officials accountable and using the privilege of protesting these instances of environmental injustice, citizens can create real change within their communities.  

Although the restoration of the Rochester Heights community and its surrounding watershed is far from complete, it is important to acknowledge the progress that has occurred surrounding the environmental restoration of this community. The damage that was done to this community by city developers could have been completely avoided. However, environmental injustices and racism is slowly being repaid by the City of Raleigh.

Community members look forward to the future of Rochester Heights, and the development of the beauty of its environmental landscape.


Elia-Warnken, Todd. “Rochester Heights & Biltmore Hills.” ArcGIS StoryMaps, Esri, 29 Nov. 2020,

 Klahre, Ayn-Monique. “The Story behind the Walnut Creek Wetland Center.” WALTER Magazine, WALTER Magazine, 1 May 2019,

Little, Magaret Ruth. “Getting the American Dream for Themselves: Postwar Modern Subdivisions for African Americans in Raleigh, North Carolina.” Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, vol. 19, no. 1, 2012, p. 73., Accessed 20 Feb. 2022.

Maciag, Mike. “Building Homes in Flood Zones: Why Does This Bad Idea Keep Happening?” Governing, Governing, 21 Apr. 2021,

Mazur, Laurie. “Commentary: The Danger of Development in Flood-Prone Areas …” U.S. News, U.S. News, 8 Oct. 2019,

McAllister, Cameron. “Rochester Heights Resident History.” ArcGIS StoryMaps, Esri, 30 Nov. 2020,

McLeod, Cara. “Walnut Creek Wetland Park.”, Raleigh, 4 Feb. 2022,

NCSU. “The Walnut Creek Wetland Community Partnership Was Formed by Citizens and Organizations Working in the Community Surrounding the Walnut Creek Wetlands.” Water Resources Research Institute of the UNC System, North Carolina State University, 27 Mar. 2021,

Staff. “Equitable Resilience: Developing Solutions to Urban Flooding in Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Watershed.” College of Natural Resources News, North Carolina State University, 30 Sept. 2019,

About the Author

Bella Teza is a Greensboro, NC native and is currently a sophomore at NC State University. She is studying Sustainable Materials and Technology, and hopes to pursue a career in this field as well. Bella is passionate about environmental sustainability and creating a change for future communities and generations.

July Message from Rick

Greetings Wetland Enthusiasts

I thought it might be good to talk a little about the internal workings of the Association. There are two functional areas:  Operations and Governance.  The operations part of the organization is the day-to-day activities and is managed by the Executive Director (me) and includes staff (paid and volunteer), projects (funded and unfunded) and committees. Our paid staff consists of  two independent contractors working on grant-funded projects. Patty Cervenka is the Volunteer Coordinator of the Volunteer Wetland Monitoring Program and Marilyn Mayer is the Project Coordinator of the Stony Run Walkable Watershed Project. They are both supported by many dedicated volunteers who make these projects possible.  

Also on the operations side of the organization are three committees:  Science, Program, and Development.  The Science Committee provides technical knowledge about wetlands and associated policies.  They produce research-based white papers on wetland functions and value and are responsible for reporting on the State of the Wetlands in the Carolinas.  Members of the Science Committee also support site surveys for private landowners.  The Program Committee provides education and outreach support through events with local communities, museums, and various festivals.  The Program Committee also manages our Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas Program.  The Development Committee manages and produces our Organization’s web page, social media, and newsletter and is responsible for our giving campaigns and other fundraising activities.   All three committees are working hard on these activities and goals to develop our next 3-year Strategic Plan..

We are actively working on getting funding for additional projects located in Harnett County (NC),  Horry County (SC), Pitt County (NC), and Wake County (NC).  The Association is also very involved  in the North Carolina Natural and Working Lands initiative run by the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and participates on various committees with the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency. 

The Governance component of the Association is provided by the Board of Directors who provide guidance on strategic initiatives, make financial decisions, and promote the organization with the public. Board members are volunteers and make decisions on the overall direction of the organization.

So please keep in mind we need all of your support, both financial and as a volunteer.  We currently are looking for the following volunteer position:

  • Board Member
  • Development Committee Lead (Help with Communications )
  • Fundraising Lead

Please consider how you can best support your organization, just send me an email: or go to our donation page:  

So go explore an wetland and cool off!


Introducing New Board Member: Becky Ryon

Becky Ryon was voted to the Board of Directors at our May meeting to replace the seat vacated by our current Executive Director, Rick Savage.

Becky grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida and was fortunate to be surrounded by natural beauty. Unfortunately, like South Carolina, the diverse wildlife and habitats were constantly threatened by unrestrained development. Her childhood in Florida, young adulthood in North Carolina, and previous environmental advocacy work in Richmond with the Virginia League of Conservation Voters have instilled a limitless appreciation for the wild wonders of the Southeast and a desire to preserve them for future generations. She is working with the Coastal Conservation League to build a more resilient South Carolina through the protection of wetlands, smarter growth, expanding renewable energy, and supporting the efforts of frontline communities.

Becky is a firm believer in the science-based education and advocacy mission of the Carolina Wetlands Association and she is eager to help address the many challenges facing the wetlands, wildlife, and people of the Carolinas. She looks forward to learning new tools and strategies from volunteers, staff, and fellow board members and offering her own experience in outreach and advocacy efforts.

Becky studied Anthropology at UNC-Chapel Hill, loves to travel, and can often be found paddling on a river, walking on a beach, or exploring a heritage preserve in her spare time.

June Message from Executive Director

Greeting Wetland Supporters!

I hope everyone was able to get out to explore a wetland during American Wetland Month.  We had a fantastic tour of our Wetland Treasure, the West Branch Nature Preserve near Charlotte on May 7.  It not too late to sign up for the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge boat tour on June 7.  Our other two 2022 Wetland Treasures tours are being scheduled (or rescheduled in the case of the Little Pee Dee Heritage Preserve), so keep watch on Facebook for those dates, you will not want to miss them.

One of our organization’s goals is to support all of our Wetland Treasure sites and maintain good relationships with the site owner.  One such case involves Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve in Horry Co., South Carolina.  I recently spoke to the Horry County Council (10 minutes and 30 seconds in to the video) about Lewis Ocean Bay and a the potential for a hospital be build nearby.  I was asked by the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League to talk about the Carolina Wetlands Association, our Wetland Treasures Program, and why we designated Lewis Ocean Bay as a Wetland Treasure.  Lewis Ocean Bay is largely a wet, longleaf-pine savannah and needs regular burning to maintain its habitat and biodiversity. If a hospital were to be built near the bay, the burning regime could be restricted and jeopardize the sensitive ecosystem of Lewis Ocean Bay.  The Horry County Council sincerely seemed to take our concerns into consideration.  This is the role that Carolina Wetlands Association can play in helping to protect our Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas. 

The Carolina Wetlands Association also hosted the first of many webinars on May 5, 2022 on the topic of with wetlands and climate change.  A white paper on this subject was produced by our Science Committee and the webinar was organized by Patty Cervenka. The webinar presentation was conducted by Heather Patti, the lead author on the white paper.  The webinar was a big success; we had a great discussion following the webinar and feel like people learned a lot.  We will have future webinars on other white papers produced by the Science Committee so watch our newsletter and other social media for announcements.

Talking about climate change, the budget proposed by NC Governor Cooper expands funding for natural and working lands conservation, restoration, management, and outreach – directly supporting many of the recommendations the 2020 Natural and Working Lands (NWL) Action Plan. Governor Cooper’s budget is a huge show of support for all of the work that was put into creating the NWL Action Plan which consisted of recommendations to restore and preserve wetlands and forest to sequester carbon.  Carolina Wetlands Association was a significant player in the development of the NWL Action Plan. Highlights include:

  • NC Land and Water Fund, for land conservation, restoration, and planning:
    • $6.8 million(M) recurring (bringing recurring funding up to $20 M)
    • $20M nonrecurring funding, totaling $40M for FY2022-2023
  • Parks and Recreation Trust Fund:
    • $3.7 M recurring (bringing the total annual funding up to $20 M)
    • $20 M nonrecurring funding, totaling $40M for FY2022-2023
  • Other Highlights:
    • $10 M to NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources for peatland and pocosin conservation and inventory
    • $10 M for the NC Resilient Communities Program ($4 Million for Resilient Coastal Communities Program and $6M for the RISE program)
    • $2 M for NC Forest Service, Forest Development Program
    • $843,000 for NC Dept of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Coastal Habitat Assessment Program (staff, mapping, species assessments, and wetland evaluation)
    • $250,000 to NC DEQ for Equitable Community Engagement grants
    • $700,000 NC State Parks Prescribed Fire Crew and equipment
    • $18 M to NC Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services for the Swine Floodplain Buyout Program

 You can read more about the budget at this link.

This is all very good news and supports the effort of other nonprofits, universities, and local, state, and federal agencies.  These opportunities truly open the door for future funding of Carolina Wetlands Association projects to help communities in need to mitigate their flooding issues and bring many co-benefits including improved water quality, recreation, human well-being, and economic benefits.

Contact me if you want to help in any other these efforts.

Rick Savage 

2022 Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas

The Carolina Wetlands Association joins wetlands enthusiasts all over the country to raise public awareness about the beauty and importance of the nation’s wetlands during May – American Wetlands Month.  The designation of Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas indicates wetlands that are ecologically valuable, protected by conservation plans, and home to an abundance of plant and animal diversity.  All our Wetland Treasures provide many ecosystem services to the benefit of human wellbeing such as water quality, flood control, habitat, recreation, and a host of other services.

Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge

Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge

Location:  Bertie County, NC 
Wetland Type:  Protected forested wetlands consisting of bottomland hardwoods and swamps 
Site Owner: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Unique Feature: Home to over 200 species of birds, including 88 breeding resident species and a diversity of fish species, including the endangered Shortnose Sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum), all connected to each other through the shallow water tables and refuge flooding frequency.

Theodore Roosevelt State Natural Area

Location:  Carteret County, NC 
Wetland Type:  brackish salt marsh, freshwater pond, tidal flat  
Site Owner: North Carolina State Parks
Unique Feature: This 292-acre preserve is one of the few remaining tracts of old-growth maritime forests along the North Carolina coast. Its hiking trails feature views of Bogue Sound, maritime forest, salt marsh and an ancient dune ridge. 

Wambaw Swamp Wilderness

Location:  Charleston County, SC 
Wetland Type:  river-bottom land of hardwoods & sloughs   
Site Owner: U.S. Forest Service
Unique Feature: Thick with wild orchids, pickerel weed, sedges, carnivorous pitcher plants, and epiphytes. The wilderness is comprised of bottomland hardwood forest and is edged with small pine stands. Also, home to mature cypress and tupelo trees.

West Branch Nature Preserve

Location:  Mecklenburg County, NC 
Wetland Type:  river floodplain (due to beaver activity)   
Site Owner: Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation 
Unique Feature: Possibly the most ecologically important wetland in the county. Rich plant diversity with 114 species identified. Habitat to numerous species of salamanders, frogs, toads and turtles. Home to beavers, birds, as well as the eastern ribbon snake.  

May Message from the Executive Director

Greetings Wetland Supporters!

Well, it is American Wetlands Month and our Wetland Treasures have been announced.  They are beautiful sites providing many benefits to biodiversity and contributing to human well-being.  Some of the tour dates are still being determined so be sure to watch our web page and facebook page for those dates.  You will not want to miss these tours.

As I look over the years, I have dealt with the study of wetlands and how to best protect them. I was reflecting on how I got interested  in wetlands in the first place.  While I cannot put my finger on exactly when or how old I was, I just remember that during my exploration of the woods as a boy, wherever I came upon a bottomland or stepped into the soggy soil, I became fascinated about not only why there was the soil was soggy soil, but why was it even there and what was its significance.  In those days I did know anyone who could answer my  questions, so I continued to wonder.  

As I progressed through life’s journey, I learned about wetlands as an ecosystem through my general science classes.  The emphasis was on food webs and how organisms interact with their environment; all important and interesting information, but what is special about  wetland?  As my life journey progressed, I did learn that wetlands are really important, but still, there was a real lack of emphasis in the textbooks on ecology about wetlands. I was starting to get this impression that wetlands were considered by the “experts” as the “redheaded stepchild” of aquatic ecosystems.  Even when I was doing wetlands monitoring research for North Carolina, it seemed that my research colleagues and I were pretty much in a world of our own, stomping around in wetlands.  Even the USEPA, who paid us to do this research, had wetlands as the last ecosystem to be surveyed when they were doing their national assessment of the nation’s waters ( i.e., steams, rivers, lakes, estuaries all came first).

Along the way, I realized that people had a basic fear of wetlands that has  a lot to do with our language and history.  Wetlands (e.g., marshes, bogs, swamps) were always seen as dark, dangerous places that held unpleasant mysteries.  So, they were drained to reduce this fear, to improve transportation and to be used for agriculture.  And our everyday language does not help.  How many times have you said I am so “swamped” or I got “bogged” down, all negative connotations?  And what is really meant by the expression “drain the swamp”?   What about the “Swamp Thing” comic book and movie creature who lived in that horrible swamp?

I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea.  Our language and cultural history have created this negative image of wetlands and it is something that we still must overcome, even within professional realms.  So, let’s be cognizant of this during American Wetlands Month and help us break these stereotypes and educate people about the importance of wetlands.

So go explore a Wetland Treasure!


Wetland Solutions = People Solutions

Greeting Wetlands Supporters:

We started our second funded project on January 26  with a virtual kickoff meeting of our Stony Run watershed project located in Harnett County, NC.  We have three excellent partners, Wetlands Solutions LLC, Skeo Solutions Inc, and Harnett County Soil and Water Conservation District, to help with this project which is being funded by the NC Land and Water Fund.  The purpose of this project is to develop a restoration plan for a 2-mile section of the Stony Run watershed after we conduct ecological and hydrological assessments.  Flooding has been a problem in this section of the watershed due to development, a fragile dam, and more frequent and intense rains.  The restoration plan will address the flooding concerns.  We are also going to involve the community to get their input regarding the plan as it is developed.  Other potential benefits include improved stream flow, enhanced habitat, improved water quality, and higher economic value for the community.  We are working on the development of a wetlands park and trail system that we hope will connect diverse communities.

This is the first of potentially several projects in NC and SC that will emphasize working with communities to help mitigate flooding by utilizing their wetland resources.  This led me to use the term “wetland solutions are people solutions” in a meeting recently and it rang loud with me.  I really felt this was such a true statement that I have used it several times.

So, what do I mean by “wetland solutions are people solutions”?  Clearly wetlands provide many ecosystem services that benefit people and wildlife.  Many of our wetlands are impaired and therefore are not providing these services to their full potential.  Many communities are experiencing more flooding due to the increased frequency of storms and intense rainfall.  Given that wetlands are often impaired and, in some cases, severely impacted, flood risks are increased.  The solutions to these impaired wetlands are restoration, enhancement, and in some cases, creation.  To look towards the future, wetland and floodplain preservation is critical.  

When we repair these wetlands with restoration/enhancement, we uplift wetlands’ functionality to provide the flood protection, flood mitigation, and often many other ecosystem services.  When we restore/enhance wetlands for the specific purpose of aiding a community, such as mitigating flooding, then the wetland solution is a human solution.  Therefore, when we implement wetland solutions they are often for human solutions, for the betterment of quality of life by uplifting ecosystem services.

So, remember this, “wetland solutions are human solutions” and share this knowledge with your friends and family.

Go out, explore a wetland, and think about how these ecosystems benefit communities.

Rick Savage