Cashie River Treehouse

How a grant program can boost water recreation, help the economy and address flooding (among other things)

The DWR Water Resources Development Grant Program provides funding for water restoration projects and to boost access to water-based recreation resources across North Carolina.

Growing up in Connecticut, Amin Davis spent a lot of time exploring streams and other areas outside in his neighborhood. From a young age, he developed a love for streams and wetlands.

Amin Davis
Amin Davis

Now in his role as manager of state and local projects for the DWR Water Resources Development Grant program, Davis gets to help others get access to those same water resources he loves. The program provides funding for water restoration projects and to boost access to water-based recreation resources across North Carolina.

“I feel very fortunate and blessed because this program blends my passion for water resources and ecological restoration,” Davis said. “I feel incredible to be able to do something that I am passionate about. I can watch these projects come alive throughout the state.”

We sat down with Davis to talk about the grant program.

What does the WRDG program do?

The Water Resources Development Grant program provides funding for local governments throughout the state. I’m responsible for state and local projects that are designed to tackle stream restoration, to help with water management by addressing drainage, flood control or stormwater management and to facilitate water-based recreation.

What do you mean by water-based recreation projects?

The beauty of water-based recreation projects is they provide folks with access to water resources and natural resources.

The most common water-based recreational projects are probably greenways. Greenways provide access to lakes or rivers, or they can be situated near, or run parallel to, a water body.

We also provide grants for engineering and studies. These studies would be to implement or learn more about implementing a stream restoration, water management or water-based recreation project.

What are some of the most exciting projects you’ve worked on?

Due to popularity, one of the projects that comes to mind is probably the Cashie River Treehouse Village. A TV show called “The Treehouse Guys” featured this site on one of their episodes.

Cashie River Treenhouse

What were some of the benefits of the Cashie River Treehouse Village project?

First, in the design and implementation of the Cashie River Treehouse Village project, they used a low-impact development approach to try to minimize impacts in this area and reduce the number of trees that were cut or damaged. The boardwalks, trail and the building were constructed mostly out of wood. They tried to minimize damage to the environment in the construction.  

Now, it’s a very popular ecotourism spot for folks in the town of Windsor in Bertie County. There is a fee to use the treehouse, so it has a positive economic impact. In addition, the town of Windsor focuses a lot of their economic development efforts on the Cashie River itself, helping to bring awareness about the value of water and natural resources. It can increase tourists’ stewardship and appreciation for water and other and natural resources.

Were there any other projects you would highlight?

The Avery County Aquatic Center, a stormwater management project, was neat because of the different green stormwater infrastructure practices (GSI) that were integrated into the county’s new facility “The Dive In.” Green infrastructure can provide multiple community benefits, including reduced nuisance flooding, water quality treatment, environmental education opportunities (STEAM) and cooling to developed areas and mountain streams in the summer.

Personally, one of my favorite projects is one that got completed in in Asheville in the summer of 2023 called the Southside Community Stormwater Project. The beauty of this project is that it added green stormwater infrastructure and other amenities into an affordable housing community. The project team met with the residents to get their input on what they wanted to see, and their input was incorporated into the project design. Ultimately, this project included work to restore a concrete channel into a natural stream, plant streamside vegetation for stability and cooling and install green stormwater infrastructure measures to address stormwater runoff issues. Other additional amenities included rain gardens, improved trails, railings, a footbridge and benches. A constructed wetland also addressed a public safety hazard by eliminating water from icing in an adjacent parking lot.

Southside Community Stormwater Project in Asheville, N.C.
Southside Community Stormwater Project

This project demonstrates how we can use green infrastructure to not only improve water quality, but to also improve the human environment.

You can learn more about the benefits of other WRDG projects by viewing the 'Project Benefits' and 'Additional Benefits' sections on our Featured Project Storymaps online:

How did you get inspired to work in the environment and how did it help you start your career in DEQ?

My love for the environment started when I was a little kid. I grew up just outside of New Haven Connecticut. I spent a lot of time exploring streams and natural areas when I was a kid. Then, I was fortunate to attend a high school that had a strong natural resource curriculum. They also had a vocational agriculture program, so that was perfectly suited to my interest. Then, I studied marine and environmental science in college at Hampton University, and also completed an internship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I came to North Carolina to attend North Carolina State University for graduate school. For my project, I worked on a biological assessment of the Upper Walnut Creek Watershed.

I became an environmental scientist and spent the first nine years of my career working in the private sector. I started working for DEQ in 2008. I’ve been with Division of Water Resources since 2014. I’ve been in my current position since June 2016.

Our water-based recreation projects provide folks access to water resources, which I’ve always loved and been drawn to. Our stream restoration and water management projects help to improve our watershed communities. That’s what motivates me to do the work that I do.

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