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NC State Wins Top Outreach Award

NC State captured a national community engagement award for leading a partnership that transformed Wilson Bay, an environmentally and economically devastated section of Jacksonville, N.C.

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) selected NC State to receive the C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award. The award, supported by a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, includes $20,000 and a trophy. Chancellor Randy Woodson attended the award presentation Nov. 14 in Dallas at the association’s annual meeting.

The award is named for C. Peter Magrath, an advocate of public university outreach and community engagement, who served as APLU president from 1992 to 2005.

Researchers worked with volunteers to place 3 million oysters in Wilson Bay to act as natural water filters.
Researchers worked with volunteers to place three million oysters in Wilson Bay to act as natural water filters.

NC State and the City of Jacksonville leaders spearheaded the recovery of Wilson Bay’s degraded ecosystem. Jay Levine, professor of epidemiology and public health, led the university’s efforts in the Riverworks at Sturgeon City project.

To improve water quality, the team decommissioned the wastewater plant, reduced local runoff and removed an old dock leaching hazardous creosote byproducts. They reestablished wetlands, using oysters as living water filters. NC State faculty and the College of Design organized community summits, and students presented ideas on reuse to the city council.

Today Sturgeon City is a 26-acre community green space where residents have picnics and school groups carry out hands-on science projects. The Wilson Bay ecosystem is once again used for recreational boating and fishing. The wetlands have become a haven for waterfowl and other coastal wildlife.

An expanded partnership of three universities, two community colleges, Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, the New River Foundation, local businesses and community members now supports the site.

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