The Town of Chapel Hill passed a resolution accepting a greenway easement between Bolinwood Drive and the Chapel Hill Police Department at its April 10 meeting.
The resolution requires reconstruction on part of a trail that was especially damaged due to flooding from Hurricane Fran. The Town plans to not only relocate the trail, but also expand the easement from 15 feet wide to 50 feet. The trail would be moved to the coal-ash area east of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Different projects involving the creek have sparked controversy before, including the initial plan by the Town of Carrboro to build a greenway through the forest.
Charlie Morris, producer of the documentary "Bolin Creek Unpaved: Saving Carrboro’s Last Forest," said it was necessary to look after the area.
“It was pretty much the jewel, the green jewel of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area. A lot of people felt like it was kind of our own Central Park, but no paving,” Morris said.
Community groups such as Friends of Bolin Creek and Save Bolin Creek have been vocal in making sure that any construction or developments taking place in the area consider the interests of the community. The two groups have focused on preserving the greenery in the area, which they believe has been significantly reduced.
The project, which is being implemented by the Town of Chapel Hill, will look to provide a sewage easement to improve water management.
The Town has worked with Orange Water and Sewer Authority to make the water sources in the creek cleaner. This has been part of an agenda by the Town of Chapel Hill to restore the forest. Together with the developments to the sewage facilities, a new trail could also be developed. According to an analysis by the Town, the provision of a new sanitary sewage easement would make it easier to create new trails.
For many citizens of Carrboro and Chapel Hill, the creek is integral to the fabric of the community and has provided a place where people can spend time outdoors.
To make progress in the process, the Town has been in negotiations with people in the community.
Some of the main discussions have been with the Stratford Hills neighborhood. In a letter from the owners of the Stratford Hills Apartments, it was determined that the greenway would run on the property of the apartments and that the project would be covered by the Town. The letter also requested that the Town clarify whether the space used for the redevelopment would also contribute to the requirements for recreational space.
In regards to the development of the property, Julie McClintock, president of Friends of Bolin Creek, said the coal ash on the property was a potential cause for concern.
“For creeks, it's really best if pavement is 50 feet away from a creek actually, for water quality and a lot of other reasons. That’s why we have the Jordan Lake Rules and other things,” McClintock said, referring to a strategy from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to improve water quality. This means that keeping the trail farther from the actual forest might be better for the ecosystem.
In 2013, a coal ash fill site from years prior was discovered in Bolin Creek. Since water runs through this site, there were concerns about contamination. However, in a summary of questions from the Town Council from a closed meeting between the owners of Stratford Hills and the developers, it was determined that there would be no danger to disturbing coal ash.
The Town expects to complete the trail rebuilding by the summer of 2019, depending on weather.
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