The Neuse River Foundation was created in 1980 by five New Bern residents who lived near the Neuse River. They could see the pollution in the water and fish dying. The question they asked themselves was, “What will the Neuse be like for our grandchildren’s children?”
The Neuse River Foundation was one of the first water quality groups to be created in eastern North Carolina. During the the 1980's the program was focused on projects designed to educate residents and visitors to the Neuse River Basin about threats to water quality in the River. In 1990, the Board of Directors positioned the Neuse River Foundation to become a more active agent for the River through investigation and public involvement. An office opened in Bridgeton in a one-room trailer.
Over the next three years, the Neuse River Foundation evolved from an educational program to a RIVERKEEPER® program. The Foundation hired its first Neuse RIVERKEEPER® in April 1993 with major financial support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The Neuse RIVERKEEPER® was tasked with monitoring the Neuse River for pollution sources, attracting public attention and being a visible symbol of the the Foundation's presence on the Neuse River.
Rick Dove was the first Neuse RIVERKEEPER®. Rick was a retired Marine Colonel, attorney and former fisherman. He had seen first-hand the degradation of the river and the need for public awareness. His tenure as RIVERKEEPER® coincided with Dr. JoAnn Burkholder's research and discovery of toxic pfiesteria in the Neuse Estuary, which linked nutrient pollution from agricultural runoff and sewage treatment plants to massive fish kills and human illness.
Today, theFoundation supports two RIVERKEEPERS®, the Lower Neuse RIVERKEEPER® based in New Bern and the Upper Neuse RIVERKEEPER® based in Raleigh. In January 2009, the organization began operating as the Neuse RIVERKEEPER®Foundation, a name that more clearly reflects the presence and leadership of the Neuse Riverkeepers.