40 Years, 40 Stories
Blounts Creek is home to Bob Daw. A Goldsboro native, Daw’s introduction to the creek came through his father. It had the best trout fishing, closest to home—much closer than the 120 miles they’d previously traveled to fish the Scuppernong River.
“Me and him spent a lot of good times down here fishing. If I weren’t working, if I got one night, I was down here in these cabins, fishing, playing guitars around the fire, getting to know these people here,” Daw said.
Daw spent his working life as a manufacturing manager for Cooper Standard, traveling all over the world, but Blounts Creek kept calling him back. He met his wife, Phyllis, there, and the couple had a particularly Blounts Creek wedding — they were actually married on a boat at the old Blounts Creek bridge, with a fleet of guests surrounding. And they were in the right place at the right time when property next to the old fishing camp cabins became available. It’s now their dream retirement home.
In 2011, when the first rumblings that a mine would be built in neighboring Vanceboro, and its millions of gallons of wastewater a day would potentially be dumped into the headwaters of the creek, Daw knew it had to be stopped.
He had history with Martin Marietta Mining.
“Fifty years ago, we would always go to Bachelor’s Creek to catch the big brim. But over the years — we didn’t know why — but you couldn’t catch nothing. The creek was so quiet, you couldn’t even find a snake there,” Daw said. “Then we found out about the mining. We didn’t know the name, we just heard that there was a big mining company, dumping all their wastewater in the creek. When I found out it was the same bunch, and knowing just how much it could damage the recreation and the fishing and the fun of people coming from all over to Blounts Creek, I was mad right out the gate — I said, ‘Let’s go get ‘em, let’s fight, let’s go.’”
Daw and a core group of Blounts Creek residents — including Cotton Patch Landing owner Jimmy Daniels, tour-boat Capt. Bob Boulden and retired schools’ superintendent Ed Rhine—launched “Save Blounts Creek” which became an advocacy and fundraising arm of Sound Rivers’ legal battle not to stop the 640-acre limestone pit mine from being built, but to find a better way to dispose of all the fresh water used in the mining process. Experts knew that much fresh water would irreparably harm the creek’s existing aquatic life, and there had to be a better way.
“I’ve always been passionate about Blounts Creek. I don’t remember if I’d already signed up or joined Sound Rivers before the ‘Save Blounts Creek’ campaign, but the awareness for me was that Sound Rivers was leading the charge to block Martin Marietta off and take them to court,” Daw said. “I’m sure that there was a lot of new memberships encouraged by the battle, and I’ve always tried to help out with things. I don’t have deep pockets, but Linda (Boyer) and I will play music for events, and just try to pass the word to donate. We raised a lot of money for that legal battle.”
Nearly a decade later, the case is still winding its way through the courts. There have been wins; there have been losses. Blounts Creek’s fate will be decided by the North Carolina Supreme Court, likely this year.
Daw remains passionate saving Blounts Creek — the source of many sunset cruises on his pontoon boat and fried fish dinners, where friends and family gather ‘round and evenings end with music played under the stars.
“I’ve got five granddaughters and three great-grandsons. They love Blounts Creek, they love to come down here. We’ve got four active eagles’ nests. We go around every year, and we count our osprey nests,” Daw said. “Saving Blounts Creek is for the future and enjoyment of so many people. With the citizens — unless we do create some kind of a shockwave, marches or boat rallies — it’s our only way to stop it, with the lawyers and attorneys and the courts. That’s the only way to deal with these people and, of course, Sound Rivers provided that resource. That’s why we rallied around and raised money to support Sound Rivers … I’m all about protecting the waters and supporting Sound Rivers.”