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ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. — A $97,500 Duke Energy grant will give the Haw River near Alamance Community College added attention and provide students with an outdoor classroom.

Justin Snyder is the Dean of Industrial Technologies at ACC. He explained that part of the grant will be used to turn a three-acre lawn into a useful natural piedmont prairie. In the fall, students will plant native grasses and wildflowers that will attract wildlife like birds and bees. Plus the native prairie will do a better job protecting the Haw River that flows nearby.

“Runoff from the parking lots carry gas and oil into the river. Turf grass doesn’t do a good job filtering all of that out,” said Snyder. “The prairie with deep roots systems will suck a lot of that out, so we will have clearing water going into the river.”

After the planting, the prairie will become a living lab for ACC students.

“We will monitor the water going into the prairie and then monitor the water going into the Haw River,” Synder added.

Carolyn Rhode is ACC’s vice president for institutional advancement. She added that the other part of the grant will help build a new Haw River access. It will be open to the public so kayak and canoe enthusiasts will be able to use it.

“There will be a staircase to the river and used as a canoe launching point and a place where students can go get samples of the river to use in biology classes,” explained Rhode.

A road that runs behind campus will take people to a large gravel parking lot. A pathway will be built that will take visitors through the native prairie and then to the canoe launch. Snyder said the Haw River behind Alamance Community College is an ideal place to enjoy the river.

“So you can get on and paddle upstream or downstream,” said Synder. “A lot of areas, you are going downstream only. So you can paddle up and down and get out at the same access point.”

The native prairie and launch area will be ready in Fall 2020.