Rockingham County, NC Jobs, Forests & Rivers Plan

“Rockingham County: Jobs, Forests, and Rivers” is an extreme weather resiliency plan of action developed specifically for Rockingham County, North Carolina through the Model Forest Policy Program. It presents the results of a community team effort, deep and broad information gathering, critical analysis and thoughtful planning.

DRBA took the local leadership role to lead Rockingham County toward extreme weather resilience for forests and rivers with an adaptation plan that addresses local risks and fits local conditions and culture. DRBA’s purposes for the plan focused on the perils to natural resources posed by extreme weather events and ecological degradation. The outcome will be communities throughout Rockingham County that can better withstand impacts of changing weather and other stressors upon natural resources, economy and social structure in the decades to come.

Rockingham County has abundant natural resources for outdoor recreation, which is one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the U.S., is located near two major urban centers with an international airport, ample farmland and irrigation, considerable forest canopy, and long stretches of free-flowing rivers characterized by slow moving water as well as class I – III rapids. This resiliency plan suggests coordinated approaches to protect these economic drivers and assure that the county is able to withstand, and quickly recover from, extreme weather events.
The activities, projects, and programs listed below - all designed to prepare Rockingham County for meeting the future - are made possible by the Reidsville Area Foundation and DRBA members.

Promote Rockingham County Rivers & Trails for Tourism

Rockingham County has a already made a significant investment in marketing with establishing the Partnership for Economic & Tourism Development, and branding the County as North Carolina’s North Star. As a result, tourism is one area of the Rockingham County economy with consistent growth. Branding Rockingham County as an outdoor recreational playground offers a range of meaningful opportunities.

Small businesses thrive in an outdoor recreation economy: outfitters, guides, production of local, specialty foods, and more. A recently released report on the economic impact of outdoor recreation finds that 6.1 million American jobs are “directly supported by the outdoor industry,” and “Americans spend $646 billion each year on activities like camping, hunting, and snow sports. This is a bigger economic impact than those of the pharmaceutical and gasoline and fuel industries.” Advancements in technical apparel, footwear and equipment for outdoor activities are driving innovation and entrepreneurship, while creating a demand for highly skilled workers in areas like technology, product design, manufacturing, sustainability and global commerce. A tremendous diversity of career opportunities exists beyond product-related jobs.

To promote rivers & trails for tourism, DRBA:
  • partnered with Rockingham County of Public Health to develop an iOS/Android Application to market trails and river access throughout the Dan River Valley and featuring Rockingham County.
  • provides consultation and project development services to municipalities, state parks, and landowners for river access installation and improvement.
  • provides free technical advice and support to rivers and trails groups for the purposes of marketing, increasing visitation, and building sustainability.

Increase Water Conservation in Rockingham County

Although Rockingham County considered "water rich," over the past decade, droughts and abnormally dry conditions are on an upward trend. Rain barrels are a cost-effective way to capture rain runoff and use it for non-potable purposes.

To assist with water conservation as well as availability during drought, DRBA
  • provides rain barrel workshops throughout the year with sponsorships and donation provided by local businesses, Coca-Cola and the River Network. Sign up for our e-newsletter to get announcements of DRBA's workshops. 

Productive Forests

Timber and Forests: Rockingham County’s natural beauty may be compromised by loss of forests at the same time that the county is looking to increase visitation from outdoor enthusiasts. Forest health and related recreational experiences are impacted by increased intensity of storms, drought, and invading pests. Most of the county’s forested lands are in small parcels and these landowners are less likely to be reached by state forestry and extension agents, making them vulnerable to poor forestry practices. Hotter, drier summers make trees less resilient to infestation, local extirpation, fire, floods, and wind/ice storms. While timber is currently a minor economic driver in the county, by diversifying forests, promoting planting of native Shortleaf Pine and deliberate, careful forestry, this industry has significant potential.

To promote productive forests, DRBA:
  • is seeking to assist in establishing a demonstration forest in or near Rockingham County
  • assists landowners with navigating the confusing maze of available programs and benefits for forest stewardship.
  • assists landowners in identifying appropriate land management free or low-cost experts to provide consultation on available tax breaks and other benefits for land stewardship.

Clean & Healthy Rivers

More than one third of the water bodies in Rockingham County have reported problems with water quality: 31% for pathogens, 26% for sediments, 9% for ammonia, 6% for metals, and 3% for impaired biological community. All of the lakes are impaired for metals. Approximately half of the impairments are caused by nonpoint sources, 23% by municipal point sources, 23% by agriculture, and for 23% of water bodies the impairment source is not reported.

Piedmont Triad Council of Governments has noted that, in the greater Eden area, the Dan and Smith rivers are impaired for turbidity and coliform from unknown sources. Impervious surfaces along the banks of the Smith River and storm water runoff into that river is causing degraded biological habitat. There is much more certainty in the scientific community about future temperatures than precipitation rates. That, if nothing else, urges action to mitigate current stressors and prevent unnecessary risk-taking with local waters.

To promote clean & healthy rivers, DRBA:
  • mobilizes volunteers to clean navigable miles of river Rockingham County annually.
  • offers free or subsidized rain or butterfly gardens to capture storm run off and reduce the need for pesticides
  • provides free streamside buffer consultation 
  • provides trail repair consultation to mitigate soil erosion on existing recreational trails in the County.

Local Food Sources

According to the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, average prices for household and consumer goods, is projected to rise from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent by year’s end. Prices are expected to remain high as global food production struggles to keep pace with the rising demand for commodities such as wheat and corn. The impact of extreme weather events on global production are a contributing factor to the projected rise in food costs. Unpredictable flood/drought cycles, larger and more severe storms, and wildfires have been attributed to greater inconsistencies in agricultural conditions worldwide.

As recent report pointed out, parts of the Western U.S. are already experiencing water crises because of severe dry-spells; approximately one third of all counties in the lower 48 face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century.

Rockingham County is in the fortunate position of being generally "water-rich." However, as long as our supplies of food are dependent upon global trade, we are vulnerable to rise in food costs and potential scarcity. DRBA is working to prepare Rockingham County to be resilient in the face of changing agricultural conditions. Community gardens can be a source of healthy, fresh food; foster a spirit of community and independence; and pass on agricultural knowledge to future generations.

To promote local food sources, DRBA:
  • works with the Rockingham County Health Alliance to promote and implement local gardening
  • assesses barriers and helps develop strategies for locally grown food and self sufficiency.