Jacksonville water-based festival celebrates recovery efforts made on New River

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – After years of polluted water, an event is celebrating the restoration efforts made to the New River in ​Jacksonville.

Tomorrow, the Jacksonville Onslow Sports Commission is hosting the New River Splash Festival.​​

The event celebrates the story of the improvements made to the water quality. At one point, it was unsafe to cruise the river, let alone swim in it.

“We want to get people out in the water, the water test yesterday was almost drinking water level, but ​because of that dark bottom, I think people are kind of misleading but if you pull the water up and pour it out​
it’s really clear water,” said Scott Smith, Executive Director for Jacksonville Onslow Sports Commission.

The event is being held on Kerr Street in Jacksonville from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Events include kayaking, paddleboarding, a kids zone, and boat tours of the New River.

Admission is free. ​​

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In late September, the Jacksonville-Onslow Sports Commission will host the New River Splash Festival.

The event celebrates the restoration efforts made to the New River. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the New River was ecologically dead, according to experts.

The river had been polluted due to wastewater treatment plants and military installations.

City officials began an initiative to restore the water quality and filter out the pollution using oysters.

“Which are a great natural filter, they’re filter feeders so they help take out all of the pollutants and things from the water,” said Sturgeon City Development & Operations Director Paula Farnell.

A year into the cleanup process, life was seen back in the river. Boats are able to cruise around, fisherman began flocking in, and people can swim in the river.

To celebrate the story of the improvements made on the water quality, officials will hold the New River Splash Festival.

The event will include a water-based triathlon, stand up paddleboarding, canoeing, kayak experiences, and goat yoga.

“So it gives us some options that other communities don’t have and that we didn’t have previously,” said Scott Smith, executive director of the Jacksonville-Onslow Sports Commission.

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