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Currituck wins national honor for green initiative

Currituck County has won a national award for its efforts to maintain healthy coastal and ocean resources through a green initiative spearheaded in part by North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

The county, located on the state’s northern coast, was among five local governments across the United States awarded the 2014 Walter B. Jones Sr. Memorial Award for Excellence in Coastal Ocean Resource Management.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration bestows the awards every two years to local efforts that have inspired positive change in coastal management.

The award honors the late Walter B. Jones Sr., who represented North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1966 to 1992. It recognizes not only the recipients’ countless hours of dedicated work but also their application of innovative approaches, tools or technology to conserve, protect and improve the U.S. coasts.

Currituck County was cited for its Currituck Goes Green initiative, a partnership of Cooperative Extension, North Carolina Sea Grant, NC State University, East Carolina University, the North Carolina Coastal Federation and the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute.

Its mission is “to provide leadership, education and opportunities that help government, staff, citizens and businesses operate in a manner to conserve, sustain and enhance our environment and natural resources.”

The initiative began in 2009 as a way to turn the former farm field that was the site of the county’s then-new Extension center into an outdoor classroom showcasing environmentally friendly development.

Since then, Currituck Goes Green has hosted public events on a range of topics, from water quality fairs to wetlands restoration demonstrations.

In 2012, the county’s Board of Commissioners adopted the Unified Development Ordinance to address topics pertaining to natural resource preservation within development. The ordinance contains many green policies, including sustainability incentives, wetland setbacks and a requirement that stormwater management systems be treated not just as utilitarian structures but as site amenities.

Gloria Putnam, North Carolina Sea Grant’s coastal resources and communities specialist, commended the county for its commitment to sustainable development.

“Currituck County deserves recognition for their foresight in taking steps that will help preserve their valuable natural resources as the county’s local population and economy continue to grow,” she said.

County Extension Director Cameron Lowe said she sees the Currituck Goes Green as more than a one-time initiative with starting and ending points.

“We are more water than land, and we rely on our water resources for recreation, employment and attracting tourists,” she said, “so protecting those assets is a way of life.”

Currituck Goes Green “informs the way we as a county and an Extension Center do business,” she noted. “Demonstration projects will come and go, but our commitment to environmentally sound practices and encouraging those among our clientele are a top priority.”

-Staff Report