Festival Director Greg Bell says the Eno River Association's conservation efforts rely on the work of volunteers, and the festival is their primary tool for recruitment.
"The 600 volunteers that work on the festival each summer also feed into our land protection programs, our stewardship programs, our education programs," he said.
Bell added that the Festival for the Eno provides an opportunity for visitors to develop a bond with their local watershed.
"You can't care for what you don't know," he said. "Through the festival and our other outdoor recreation activities, we try to get people to the river so that they have a sense of investiture in its future."
Preserving and Rehabilitating The Eno River
The association was founded in 1966 with the mission of preserving and rehabilitating the Eno River and the river valley. At the time, the river was listed on the North Carolina's 303(d) list of threatened and impaired waterways, and the city of Durham had recently proposed the creation of a reservoir that would have inundated the surviving ecosystem in the river valley.
A group of concerned citizens established the Eno River Association to oppose the reservoir project and to propose the creation of a state park in its place. The proposed park recieved state approval in 1972, and Eno River State Park opened in 1975 with more than 1,000 acres of land.
The once-barren banks of the river are now lush with vegetation, and the water quality of the river has improved enough to sustain growing biodiversity - the association even sees the potential for the river to provide a habitat for a number of the state's threatened species of vertebrates.
Director of Conservation and Stewardship Kim Livingston explained that one of the association's ongoing conservation projects is the pursuit of conservation easments on local working farms. She said that those easements allow the association to preserve the river's historical and natural value while leaving viable riverside farmland in private hands.
On a larger scale, Livingston mentioned that the association has outlined a master plan for conservation that envisions an additional 2,000 acres of protected land, much of which would lie on the eastern stretches of the river near Hillsborough.
Organizers expect this year's festival to draw thousands of visitors for two days of live music - 70 bands on 5 stages - along with food, crafts, and riverside revery. The Festival for the Eno will take place on Thursday and Saturday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Tickets are available on the festival's website, and proceeds go to supporting the Eno River Association.