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Eno land protection close to major milestone

by Susan Dickson
Staff Writer

For more than 40 years, the Eno River Association has been working to protect the land that surrounds the Eno River, and within a year, the association could reach a long-sought goal: complete the missing links in the Eno River State Park.

The Eno River Association has been working to protect the land around the river and in the watershed area since 1966, with the goal of completing the gaps in the Eno River State Park to create a 6,000-acre park with 16 miles of river frontage. In addition, the association works to acquire land outside of the state park as well, to protect as much of the watershed area as possible and minimize the amount of sediment and nutrients that flow into the river.

The association was started by a group of concerned citizens trying to prevent Durham from damming the river to create a reservoir. The group’s efforts were successful, and the state got involved with the group in protecting the land around the river and created the state park.

The 33-mile river, which winds through northern Orange County into Durham, flows into Falls Lake, a major source of drinking water for Wake County residents. The state park stretches along the river from Pleasant Green Road in Orange County to Roxboro Road in Durham. Occoneechee Mountain, though not adjacent, is part of the state park as well.

According to Klugh Jordan, director of land protection with the Eno River Association, the association is working on a number of land acquisitions that could complete the gaps in the state park.

“We joke around about the fact that our mission is to work ourselves out of a job,” she said. “We really are steadily working toward completing the state park.”

The state park, which now includes 4,200 acres, features trails, campsites and more, with wide buffers to urban or residential areas.

“That’s one of the things that’s so nice about the state park – Here you are in the middle of quite an urban area, and you can get a real wilderness feel,” Jordan said.

The park’s rangers lead various activities every weekend, including hikes, canoe and kayak trips and bug-finding trips.
Once the missing links in the park are completed, Jordan said, the association plans to add equestrian trails to the park as well.

Although the goal of completing the state park finally seems within reach, getting there hasn’t been easy, Jordan said.

“Land is really expensive,” she said. “That’s our biggest challenge.”

Jordan said the association works with landowners to provide them with financial incentives to sell or donate their land. In areas around the Eno that aren’t in the state park, the association also works with landowners who are interested in obtaining conservation easements to protect their land, Jordan said.

“That’s a great conservation tool because it does keep the land in private hands,” she said. Conservation easements restrict development on the land, but landowners maintain ownership of land within the easements.

“I think a lot of people, especially people who have land in their family for generations, would love to see it protected,” Jordan said. However: “This is where people have their investments, and so we’re directly competing with developers and others for development of the property.”

For more information, visit enoriver.org.

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