On Saturday, Partners for Environmental Justice (PEJ) and the Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) will host a celebration of the renaming of Southeast Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Wetland Center as the Norman & Betty Camp Education Center at Walnut Creek Wetland Park. The event also will honor the memory of Dr. Camp, who passed away Sept. 12 at the age of 84.
The free event will take place at the Walnut Creek Wetland Park, 950 Peterson St. on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 1 p.m. The event will include the public release of a new short documentary film — How a Group of Dedicated Citizens Can Band Together to Create Positive Change in a Community — followed by live music and refreshments.
The film tells the story of PEJ’s founding in the mid-1990s as a community organization. The group’s goals included improving the well being of the Rochester Heights and Biltmore Hills communities through education and collaboration to address chronic flooding, trash dumping and invasive plant species in and around the Walnut Creek wetlands. The film also chronicles Dr. Camp’s lifetime of activism for environmental justice.
“It is everyone’s right to live in a clean, healthy, safe environment with equal enjoyment of nature’s resources and beauty,” Dr. Camp declared in a interview for the film.
The Walnut Creek Wetland Park was first envisioned by PEJ in the late 1990s. Through the group’s collaboration with the City of Raleigh, the center was constructed and dedicated in September 2009. The Wetland Center serves as a nexus for environmental outreach into the community and a place to educate people on the importance of wetlands for clean water, habitat, and recreation, while emphasizing the importance of human interaction with nature.
“Dr. Camp’s quiet and diligent activism for his community and our park is so inspiring!” said Stacie L. Hagwood, director of the Walnut Creek Wetland Park, which is part of the City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department. “I am honored and humbled to take the baton and carry out his vision of educating all on the importance of wetlands and environmental stewardship.”
Melvin Estrella, the independent filmmaker who filmed and produced the documentary for PEJ, added, “As a black man, I rarely saw African-American people depicted as environmentalists or caretakers of nature in the mainstream media. So, when a family friend in Raleigh introduced me to Dr. Camp, an African American “green hero,” and to the Partners for Environmental Justice who were instrumental in protecting the Walnut Creek wetlands, I was immediately inspired. I wanted to share with others the story so they, too, could be inspired.”
Christy Perrin, the sustainable waters and communities coordinator for WRRI, said, “Dr. Camp, his wife Betty Camp and Partners for Environmental Justice started a local movement that continues to grow today. Once people visit and get to know the Walnut Creek wetlands, they realize how special they are and often want to become involved.” Perrin is the co-coordinator of the Walnut Creek Wetland Community Partnership (WCWCP).
The WCWCP serves as a forum for collaborating on education, research, sustainable management of the wetlands’ natural resources and development of the surrounding human community. PEJ is one of the collaborating organizations.
The celebration events will take place after the regularly scheduled wetlands cleanup led by Wake County Big Sweep and PEJ. Participants in the cleanup will meet at the Walnut Creek Wetland Park at 9 a.m. and finish around 12 p.m. Volunteers must pre-register by contacting Zone Captain Frances Carmichael at (919) 996-2760 or WC.WetlandCenter@raleighnc.gov.
Following the Sept. 22 events, the film will be available for streaming on the WRRI website at go.ncsu.edu/walnutcreek.