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OWASA approves Cane Creek Reservoir land for Mountains-to-Sea trail

On Aug. 25, the Orange Water and Sewer Authority board of directors approved the use of this land, which is owned by OWASA, for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Greg Feller, the public affairs administrator at OWASA, said the organization Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail first wrote to OWASA about using this land in November 2009.

The agenda from the meeting of the OWASA board of directors in December 2009 included a letter from Kate Dixon, executive director of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, in which she said the proposed trail route in Orange County follows Cane Creek through the OWASA Reservoir.

Dixon said in an email the trail was proposed in 1977 by former Chapel Hill Mayor Howard N. Lee.

“The trail is special because North Carolina is such a diverse and beautiful state,” Dixon said. “Following the trail 1,150 miles from the great Smokies to the Outer Banks provides an extraordinary way to experience and learn about North Carolina.”

In the OWASA board meetings on June 23 and Aug. 25 of this year, the board heard comments from Hillsborough resident Bob Johnson and others, according to a press release from OWASA.

Johnson wrote to the OWASA board on June 29 to address the concerns of the community.

Johnson said in an email that he wrote the letter to help the board make a decision.

“My overarching point was don’t believe any claims by me or any other layperson — go to the experts,” Johnson said. “In my view, a minimal amount of staff work by OWASA could easily inform their decision and help them ignore the shouting voices on either side of the fence.”

Some of the conditions that Johnson included in his letter to OWASA were no bridges over water, requiring a certain trail width, and not allowing trailheads or parking on the property.

“That land is in my DNA as much as backyard cookouts and Tar Heel basketball,” he said in an email. “Ever since OWASA took the land for the reservoir in the ‘80s, I’ve been hoping they’d eventually understand that their holding it in the public trust and for the public good is enhanced when they open it up to hikers and trail walkers.”

According to the resolution, the conditions adopted by OWASA in August are to protect water quality in the Cane Creek Reservoir, to use no OWASA money for the construction of the trail and to mitigate risks associated with hikers using OWASA property.

Measures to protect water quality include prohibiting pets on the trails, swimming in the water and the use of motorized equipment in the creation of the trail. Additionally, steep slopes will be avoided to prevent erosion and sediment runoff.

To minimize security risks, no fires, camping, hunting, fishing, smoking and drinking alcohol will be allowed on the trail, according to the resolution.

Trails are usually built and maintained by volunteers, Dixon said.

“Our plan is to use volunteers to build and maintain this part of the trail, too,” she said. “Neighbors who live along existing parts of the trail are very, very positive about it. Many of them use it themselves.”

@skileyy

city@dailytarheel.com

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