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Sturgeon City awards just keep rolling in!

North Carolina State University is the recipient of the 2010 C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award for the Riverworks at Sturgeon City Project, a broad-based, community/ university partnership that transformed the once devastated Wilson Bay on the New River in Jacksonville, NC, into a national model of environmental restoration and education.

The national recognition was presented Nov. 14 at the 123rd Annual Meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). The award, supported by a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, includes $20,000 and a trophy.

Dr. Jay Levine, a professor of epidemiology and public health in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, helped spearhead the innovative project. His efforts involved bringing together numerous local stakeholders from government, education, business, and non-profit organizations; incorporating CVM and other NC State resources; integrating basic and applied research; and combining environmental principles with community design and economic development.

Photo of C. Peter Magrath Award ceremony

Dr. Graham Spanier, (far left)  president of The Pennsylvania State University, presents the 2010 C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award to Dr. James Zuiches (center left), the vice chancellor of the NC State University Office of Extension, Engagement, and Economic Development; JP McCann (center right), executive director of the Sturgeon City Project; and Dr. Jay Levine (far right) professor of epidemiology and public health in the NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Working with community officials, Dr. Levine help spearhead the innovative community/ university project.

The Wilson Bay Initiative was developed by the City of Jacksonville to restore water quality to Wilson Bay and the New River after decades of pollution from an old waste water treatment plant’s river discharge and residential and agricultural run-off. Dr. Levine, who directs the CVM Aquatic Epidemiology and Conservation Laboratory assisted Jacksonville officials by improving water quality of Wilson Bay and by organizing efforts to transform the decommissioned waste water treatment plant and a landfill into a recreational green space called Sturgeon City.

The project had its start when Dr. Levine was working with Walter Timm, the county economic development director, on a marine aquaculture program to improve the area’s quality of life and lure business ventures. The two traveled to France where they viewed the positive environmental effects of oyster growth and how oysters could filter a community’s dirty water. The two proposed the idea of a similar program based on Jacksonville’s unique needs to then Mayor George Jones, who encouraged them to develop the concept into a grant to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. The subsequent funding led to the creation of the Wilson Bay Initiative.

To improve water quality, the team decommissioned the wastewater plant, reduced local runoff and removed an old dock leaching hazardous creosote by-products. They reestablished wetlands, using some three million oysters as living water filters. NC State faculty and the College of Design organized community summits, and students presented ideas on reuse to the city council.

Today Sturgeon City is a 26-acre community green space where residents have picnics and K-12 school groups carry out hands-on science projects. The site, which has become a local economic development asset for the city and county, also supports university-led applied research, graduate training, and the transfer of aquaculture technologies to the business community. The Wilson Bay ecosystem is once again used for recreational boating and fishing and the wetlands have become a haven for waterfowl and other coastal wildlife. A non-profit foundation has been created that continues to raise funds to construct Riverworks at Sturgeon City, a new environmental education center on the site.

“The Riverworks Project is a model example of how universities can work with a city to transform an entire community. Its impact will be felt for generations to come,” said Daniel Fogel, president of the University of Vermont and chair of the APLU Board of Directors. “Public universities, like NC State and the other four regional winners, exemplify the spirit and vision of university engagement.”

NC State was chosen from a pool of regional winners that included Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Lincoln University (MO), University of Idaho, and West Virginia University. Established in 2006, the Magrath Award recognizes the outreach and engagement partnerships of four-year public universities and is named for C. Peter Magrath, who served as president of the association from 1992-2005.

Images of 3D models depicting the Riverworks at Sturgeon City planning site on Wilson Bay.


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