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Can we save Bolin Creek?


By Linda Haac

Many people believe it’s simple to create a concrete corridor through the woods along Bolin Creek. You just follow the sewer easement that’s already a narrow, somewhat worn path. You just roll out the concrete as if it were AstroTurf and everything stays the same.

Wrong! It doesn’t matter how you feel about pavement down there, the reality is construction of a concrete corridor along Bolin Creek would require a large swath through the woods. The result would be an unrecognizable landscape. What had been a stunningly beautiful stretch of creek and forest would become a hard-scaped, suburban-style landscape.

We’ve learned to adhere to state and town regulations; the town would need to place the concrete corridor outside the 30-foot stream buffer. This puts the roadway up onto the steep valley slopes, which would require cutting down important specimen trees and putting up retaining walls like those at Chapel Hill’s Meadowmont (an addition as unnatural as you can get). Moreover, this corridor is in a narrow valley, unlike the greenways along Booker and Bolin creeks in Chapel Hill, which are in wide, flat valleys that allow room for greenways well away from the creek.

Carrboro town staff members, in fact, have recommended “improvements be pursued such that the greenway trail is at least 25’ from the creek…. This will protect the riparian and creek ecosystem, and minimize trail maintenance costs.” They have also recommended the sewer line be moved “to avoid multiple future major construction impacts on the riparian area along the creek.” The sewer line would then be moved up the valley slope, beginning most likely about 55 feet from the creek.

Study this photograph and realize the proposed 30-foot clearing for paving would begin beyond the 30-foot buffer marked here. Visualize then another 30-foot clearing for paving in addition to the current 20- to 30-foot cleared OWASA easement. The result is as much as a 60-foot clearing through our woods – enough to wipe out the Barred Owl’s habitat and to produce a clearly altered landscape.

Why would we even consider this when better alternatives already exist or are planned? Ask people in Durham about Ellerbe Creek and what it means to pave next to a creek and how much damage not only is done but what problems continue. Think about this corridor’s costs doubling or tripling or quadrupling. Perhaps, if the beavers down at the creek could talk, they would warn us: “This is a really bad idea!”

Linda Haac is a member of Save Bolin Creek.

3 Responses

Comments (3)

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  1. Diane Doritty

    This is more total nonsense from Save Bolin Creek. Once again a phone call to OWASA would show the lack of rationality in their arguments.

    OWASA will NEVER move the sewer line. For a variety of reasons.
    a) The sewer line is sized to support growth for the next 30 years. Carolina North is going to drain into the new diverter on Umstead Road – not into the existing Bolin Creek link so there is no need to move them or increase their size for at least 25 years.
    b) The cost would be prohibitive – many, many more times than the cost of a paved greenway which would actually mitigate the damage OWASA is doing now. Moving the sewer line will help mitigate the damage, but the next logical step would be to restrict access to prevent damage from bike and foot traffic.
    c) Moving the sewer line would REQUIRE a new 30 foot clearing (by OWASA regulations) through the woods to which OWASA vehicles would still need access by heavy equipment. I’m glad to see SBC is advocating for clearing a 3 mile ling 30 foot path through the forest.
    d) Because the lines are gravity fed, moving of the sewer line would require the lines be buried between 20-30 feet deep or pumping stations be installed. Pumping stations would definately add to the natural enjoyment of the area.

    Why don’t we all call OWASA and volunteer for a several thousand dollar assessment to move the line. I’ll be glad to volunteer when the members of SBC agree to do so. Perhaps they should direct their attention to garnering support for an assessment to move the sewer easement.

    I’d actually be ready to compromise. If SBC can get the sewer line moved, I’d agree that the paved greenway can then follow that sewer line. Is that acceptable to them?

  2. Linda Haac

    Sadly, Ms. Dorrity has misread my piece and decided to hurl accusations that simply are untrue. Save Bolin Creek has offered no position on the sewer line, except to point out that Carrboro Town staff have recommended the sewer line be moved before any concrete corridor be installed in Phases 3 and 4 of Bolin Creek. In fact, a meeting was held with OWASA, Carrboro Town staff and UNC representatives in November 2009. At that meeting, relocating the sewer line was discussed, including the challenges it would present. I suggest Ms. Dorrity call OWASA. I also suggest paving proponents moderate their name-calling and stick to the facts.

  3. Terri Buckner

    I agree with Ms Haac that we need to stick to reality. First, writing an article that makes claims of fact on a section of the greenway that has no funding and for which a private property owner and the state will make decisions is rather pointless. Regardless of what OWASA does, if the University decides they want to pave the section of the greenway located on the Horace Williams tract, that’s what they will do, in conjunction with the town of Carrboro and DWQ.

    Second, anyone who has read the accessibility guidelines for outdoor trails (or anyone who was listening to Bill Webster from Chapel Hill at the last commission meeting) knows that 1) surfaces can be accessible without being paved, 2) paving is more cost effective and more effective at preventing erosion into the waterway than soft surfaces, and 3) if the terrain won’t accommodate paving, for either environmental or financial reasons, then the engineering plans are adapted to the terrain.

    Let’s stop making this an all-or-none debate. We can have the greenway, it can be accessible, and we can improve the water quality of Bolin Creek all at the same time.