Enjoy – and protect – the Eno

Jul. 02, 2014 @ 06:31 PM

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the Eno River Association recalls in the history on its website, “the wild, picturesque and historic Eno River was threatened: The city of Durham planned to dam the river and create a new reservoir for its growing population. The Eno had already been used as a water supply for the city once before at the turn of the century. The City Council now viewed damming the river as not only possible but also inevitable.”

In reaction to those threats, a citizens group formed that helped birth the Eno River State Park in northern Durham. And the group evolved into the Eno River Association.

In the more than four decades since its origin, the association has helped expand the state park to more than 4,000 acres. It also, the website notes, has “helped create other riverfront parks in Durham and Orange counties. Used by over a half million people annually, they include West Point on the Eno City Park, Old Farm Park, Penny’s Bend, Little River Regional Park and the Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area.”

The once-threatened Eno is now protected for much of its 35 miles.

In a marvelous marriage of activism and activity, a centerpiece of the group’s efforts to raise funds and awareness has become one of this area’s most treasured annual events. Friday and Saturday, this year’s Festival for the Eno will unfold in the city’s West Point on the Eno Park, drawing thousands to have a good time for a good cause.

Musical performances will include the African-American Dance Ensemble, Allison Flood and the Apple Chill Cloggers – to mention only a few of the acts that will keep four stages busy during the festival’s hours from 10 a.m.to 6 p.m each day.

There will be crafts aplenty, and demonstrations ranging from wheat and corn grinding to beekeeping and backyard chicken-raising. There will be Bikram yoga and massages,  clogging and a giant chess game. You’ll  be able to tour the park’s historic McCown-Mangum House or attend a “rowdy square dance.”

The event is meant to be and is fun, a chance to enjoy the fruits of the work of the association and others to protect the Eno. But it is also a chance to help the association continue that work.

“There are still 2,000 acres still to be acquired for Eno River State Park and miles of riverfront still vulnerable to development,” the group’s website reminds us. “The river also continues to face serious threats. In addition to a series of fish kills, we have battled two major highway construction projects, a city landfill, two sewer systems, and an asphalt plant. The Eno River Association has continued to be a first line of defense, standing up and speaking out to successfully halt these projects.”

One way to bolster that first line of defense – and have a good time – is to head out to the Festival for the Eno this holiday weekend.