Welcome to Save Bolin Creek

We need your help! Bolin Creek and its forest are threatened again! Your help is needed to preserve this area in Carrboro’s heart from blasting, pavement and increased flooding.

Why?  The Town of Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen has decided again to consider building a concrete bikeway along Bolin Creek. Please check this website for new developments as they happen.

Where?  Bolin Creek and its adjoining forest represent a unique two-mile stretch, from Estes Drive to Homestead Road, offering stunning beauty, great historical significance, important ecological value and much needed serenity as our area becomes more and more urban. See map.

What?  In 2009, the Town of Carrboro included a paved bicycle road along Bolin Creek, next to the creek, instead of the existing nature trail, as part of its Bicycle Plan. Only a few members of the community were aware of this move. Town planning staff then contracted with a consultant to develop a concept plan for what is a 10-foot-wide paved road, described as a “transportation corridor.” Community response was swift and negative. As a result, the Board of Aldermen (BOA) tabled the idea until staff could bring forward a proposal for public engagement. Meanwhile, the town’s Greenways Commission, charged with considering the proposal, discussed it for a year and took the idea no further. Now the BOA is considering going forward.

Our Forest is endangered.  Bolin Creek flows into Jordan Lake, water supply for more than a half million people.

  • Bolin Creek and its forest have been called by former N.C. Botanical Garden Director Peter White “our Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
  • Bolin Creek shelters hawks, owls, herons, woodpeckers, box turtles, deer, beavers, coyotes, numerous other birds, as well as the rare four-toed salamander.
  • Bolin Creek’s forest protects us from further climate change by providing a wide stretch of tree canopy that acts as a carbon sink.

Make Your Voice Heard!  Here is what you can do.

  • Sign the Save Bolin Creek petition now!
  • Tell your friends, neighbors, family and others about what’s at stake.
  • Contact Carrboro’s Mayor and members of the Board of Aldermen.
  • Attend Board of Aldermen meetings on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. in Carrboro Town Hall.

   Please sign the petition!

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Clean Up the Coal Ash Dump

Chapel Hill Police station, 828 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Chapel Hill

In May 2014, the Town of Chapel Hill informed the public that a coal ash landfill was found to be located on the site of the Chapel Hill Police Building. For more than a decade in the 1960s and ’70s, this property was used as a burial pit for coal ash. The coal ash in this unlined landfill contains known hazardous substances, including heavy metals that have leached out into the environment and will continue to do so.

The discovery of the coal ash deposit was likely made during a 2013-14 review of town property launched by the staff when considering the sale of town assets. The presence of the coal ash waste undoubtedly complicates the decision to sell the property. Whatever the town decides to do about the location of a new police station, we would expect that our Town will clean up the site. Chapel Hill residents deserve no less.

In a May 2014 letter to Mayor Kleinschmidt, Friends of Bolin Creek urged the Town to clean up the large coal ash dump and not to allow the coal ash to remain in an unlined pit in the center of town. Here is topographical map showing the location of the coal deposit.

The Town hired a consultant Falcon Engineering to make tests and to report to the North Carolina Department of the Environmental Quality (DEQ). Soil samples taken on the site by Falcon in early 2014 identified elevated levels of coal ash metals in the ground water such as arsenic, mercury, chromium, lead, thallium, and other dangerous pollutants. Well test results have been mixed at a new set of well locations, where the counsultant used filtered samples without finding high levels of dissolved coal ash pollutants.

Friends of Bolin Creek has raised questions about the procedures used and the choice of location for the tests, and we have communicated our concerns to the Town and Department of Environmental Quality.

The Town has posted a Web page called “Chapel Hill Coal Ash Disposal Site Remediation Project” containing relevant documents here. In mid 2015, Friends of Bolin Creek requested help from the Southern Environmental Law Center for legal and support services.

Clean up makes a difference.  According to a January 29, 2016 report, groundwater contamination dramatically declined along the Catawba-Wateree River after a South Carolina utility removed the coal ash under a settlement negotiated by the Southern Environmental Law Center. See article.

“These results confirm that when you remove the polluting coal ash, you also eliminate pollution of groundwater,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Duke Energy and North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality must wake up to this reality, learn from South Carolina, and move all of Duke Energy’s polluting coal ash from unlined waterfront pits to safe dry lined storage.  Otherwise, North Carolina’s groundwater will be polluted for years to come.”

North Carolina has more than 30 such sites in 14 different locations across the state. A pipe running under one of the ponds run by Duke Energy in Eden NC ruptured in February of 2014. The coal ash spilled, largely affecting the Dan River which flows into Virginia. The spill is the third largest of its kind in U.S. history.

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No Buffers, No Birds

This article by naturalist Mary Sonis appeared in the Chapel Hill News on November 23, 2015.

Bolin Creek saw a great turnout of migrating warblers this fall along with a solid showing of many resident species. As the birds move south to their wintering grounds, the creek offers an invitation that is irresistible to wildlife, and especially to our warblers – water.

Every day from 4 to 6 p.m., I headed out with a camera and chair, and set up my viewing station along the creek. The sound of water flowing over rocks produces of soft murmur that can be heard by any passerby. It is this sound that draws the birds. From the safely of the dense undergrowth, birds cautiously make their way down the trees and find a variety of tiny shallow rock pools. It is there that they bathe and drink at the end of the day.

Some tiny pools are so sought after that birds line up to take their turn. The diminutive Northern Parula Warbler might be driven off by a more determined (and larger) Black and White Warbler, while a migrating Chestnut-sided Warbler on its journey from the Northeast, lands without hesitation, and ignores the fray. An entire family of resident American Redstarts appears daily. Two siblings practice their flying skills by chasing each other in and out of the creek zone, often zipping by my head as if to show off their newfound acrobatic skills. The more sedate parents call the youngsters in and make their own cautious forays to a small crevice between the rocks that holds a scant half-inch of water.

What is it about this habitat that is so appealing to wildlife?

A riparian zone is the area of vegetation that borders a creek or stream. It is often a dense, impenetrable area of tangled greenery. It shades the creek, soaks up water after floods, absorbs toxins in the water, prevents erosion, and provides a protection zone for wildlife.

At creek’s edge a beaver family builds a lodge that is nestled only a few feet from the path of high school runners. It is so close a region that the beavers lift their heads when they hear a passing runner or dog walker. Box Turtles forage the moist leaf litter in search of invertebrates, and find their own soaking pools in the ruts and puddles along the main dirt path. Spotted Salamanders spend their lives buried deep beneath rotting logs in the forest and creek border, making their yearly journey to the vernal pools on the path to lay their eggs when soaking spring rains flood the trail in February.

There is only one thing that won’t fit along the Bolin Creek Trail. Pavement.

For warblers, the riparian border offers a perfect habitat. There are plenty of insects to be gleaned from the leaves, hidden sites for nests, water for drinking or bathing and finally, vegetative cover to protect the warblers from predation by the owls and hawks that patrol the creek.

A riparian border is the golden area of any creek.

It is not surprising that this creek trail also draws large numbers of humans to the Carolina North Forest. It is a beautiful trail that local residents have used for years as a peaceful spot to walk their dogs. Our outstanding Chapel Hill High School cross country running team makes their way down the path at 4 o’clock, the same time that the warblers arrive. On sunny fall afternoons, science classes from Smith Middle School can be found studying water ecology at creek’s edge. Mountain bikers join the activity as they negotiate the roots and dips along the trail.

Surprisingly, it all works. Runners, hikers, naturalists, and mountain bikers all share the beauty of this small stretch of land that winds its way from Wilson Park to Chapel Hill High School.

There is only one thing that won’t fit along the Bolin Creek Trail. Pavement. Some groups in Carrboro are advocating for a paved greenway along the creek in Carrboro. In order to meet state Department of Transportation standards, this paved path would require a buffer of 10 feet on either side. Unfortunately, that buffer would cut into the riparian zone.

This is the golden area that we can’t afford to lose. No buffer, no birds. No erosion control, no shade, no carbon absorbing trees, no Box Turtles lingering in a cool patch of muddy water on a sunny day. Is the cost too high to create yet another paved commuting route for bikers? Let the Carrboro Board of Aldermen know what this trail means to our community. Let them know if you’ve taken your children on nature walks along Bolin creek to see our Barred owls. Let them know if you want your teenagers to run that trail with dirt beneath their feet, and warblers calling in the canopy.

Mary Sonis is a naturalist, photographer and writer in Carrboro. You can reach her at msonis@nc.rr.com

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/community/chapel-hill-news/chn-opinion/article45341853.html#storylink=cpy
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Climate Change Report

October 9, 2015

On Tuesday night, Nov 10, the Board of Aldermen in Carrboro Town Hall will discuss a report from a Climate Change Task Force around 9 pm.  We don’t know exactly how it happened but there is a black and white recommendation containing within it a plan to revisit and pave the section of Bolin Creek between Homestead Rd and Estes Drive extension, running along the creek from the high school to Wilson’s Park, and a staff suggestion to begin a “facilitated process”.

Friends of Bolin Creek has drafted a letter to present to the Board of Aldermen asking that this proposal be removed from the report and for the BOA to drop all plans to pave. Putting a road close to the creek would harm not only the natural woodland experience for humans and animals, but would destabilize creek banks, harm water quality, increase the velocity of stream flow, and damage woodland ecology within this amazing contiguous forest. Others are tuning out to speak.

Back in 2009 (six years ago) the Board of Aldermen decided to “table”  the greenway routes adjacent to the creeks and asked the Greenways Commission to discuss the pros and cons of this proposal during a year of meetings. Finally the Commission adopted a resolution recommending no action because several alternate north-south routes were already planned.  Then all was quiet until now.  Instead of leaving the uncertainty out there longer, we would like the BOA to end discussion of these creekside routes.  Our draft letter is below.

Please consider attending the meeting tomorrow night and supporting the speakers. The agenda item comes on around 9 pm we believe.  Let us know if you would like to “sign” the letter.

Julie McClintock
Friends of Bolin Creek

October 21, 2015. The idea of paving has come up again in the Town of Carrboro thanks to transportation measures recommended by the town’s Energy and Climate Action Planning Task Force. The town’s Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) discussed the matter last Thursday and will vote on its recommendations on Thursday, Oct. 30, at its regular 7:30 pm meeting in Town Hall. At this point, the TAB has discussed recommending a reassessment of the need and viability of a bicycle/pedestrian transportation route along Bolin Creek. The public is welcome to come to this next meeting as speakers and observers. The full Board of Aldermen will hear from the Climate Action Planning Task Force at the BOA meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10. Included in the BOA’s packet will be advice from the town’s advisory boards. A public hearing is to be scheduled tentatively for January.

The Climate task force in its recent Community Climate Action Plan recommends for the Board of Aldermen (BOA) to “formally approve a route/alignment for phases 3 and 4 of the Bolin Creek Plan.” Phases 3 and 4 are the most vulnerable sections of Bolin Forest, taken off the table several years ago by the BOA after substantial community resistance. The task force has suggested that given the “differing positions by stakeholders, this could require a facilitated process,” indicating the time frame would be next year and the year after. Five community members with environmental expertise served on the task force, one of whom was Alderman Michelle Johnson’s husband, Jeff Herrick. Sammy Slade and Randee Haven O’Donnell, an opponent of paving, were the BOA liaisons. Carrboro environmental planner, Randy Dodd, was the staff person.

Each of the town’s advisory boards, except perhaps for its Environmental Advisory Board, has been asked to support the task force’s recommendations, which include numerous other recommendations concerning trees, deer, etc. The report’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicle use by 50 percent by 2025, an exceedingly high bar.

At the TAB’s Oct. 15 meeting, several members of the public opposed to the Climate Action Plan’s transportation goals attended the meeting. At the next TAB meeting on Thursday, Oct. 30, the transportation board will finalize its recommendations with a vote. For those opposed to paving, this is an important vote.

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A Charter School on the Banks of Bolin?


We are asking you to take action by contacting the Town of Carrboro’s elected representatives if you share our concern about Claremont South, a development proposal. One of Carrboro’s most beautiful meadows, also a wildlife habitat that backs up to Bolin Creek and UNC’s Carolina North Forest on scenic Homestead Road, could soon become a construction site for a 735-student, for-profit school run by a Michigan company and three-story apartment buildings targeted for students, along with a two-story commercial building. This is what is planned for the latest plan for Claremont South in an area of single-family dwellings and small-farm acreage.

Please contact the members of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen (BOA) to tell them what you think about this proposal. Click here to send an email.

Meanwhile we will keep you posted about the March dates proposed for Carrboro’s Advisory Boards (likely in early March) and a possible BOA public hearing on March 21.

The most obvious concerns are increased traffic on an already busy stretch of Homestead Road, the removal of even more trees near Bolin Creek, and the incompatible nature of this school with our local educational system. We’ve described our concerns for each of these topics below. Click the links to read about each one:

On April 17, 2012, based on statements from the developer, Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen granted a rezoning request for Claremont South, allowing what was believed to be the addition of a small commercial building to a residential building site. One-and-a-half months later, after receiving this rezoning, the developer presented a concept plan to the Town of Carrboro that showed a for-profit 735-student school, apartment buildings and the commercial building. This project will clearly change not only the character of Homestead Road and northern Carrboro but also the character of both of our towns – our approach to schools, our neighborhoods, our watershed and the area’s scenic nature.

What will be the tax burden for all of the above? What public services and public resources will have to be increased? Now is the time to consider these questions.

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Birds of Bolin Creek shared by Mary Sonis

It was a windy overcast day. It was not a good birding day. The sun wouldn’t shine on the trees, but the birds didn’t care if it wasn’t the day for pictures. They were feeling the change in the air…and they were hungry. Mason Farm was besieged by the Grackle horde. The noise was deafening from both their calls, and the sounds of thousands of wingbeats in the air. They travel in a massive flock. Grackles are brutes. They force other birds from feeders and use their sheer mass to intimidate all the smaller birds. In nesting season, I have seen them shove other bird’s young right out of their nests. This lucky bird has managed to capture a frog from the Mason Farm pond, but they are also fond of grain…and eat far more grain than any crow could ever think of consuming.
The Hermit Thrush would be happier with an insect meal, but in winter, the insects are more scarce…and so it is berries for breakfast.

Just when the winds were at their strongest, I walked down to the Bolin Creek wetland, and heard the high pitched whistling calls of hundreds of Cedar Waxwings. The trees were dripping birds.
Hearing the commotion, the Barred owl dropped by to see if there might be some bird caught off guard by all the feasting. I saw him fly in and hang out at the edge of all the activity.


The Pileateds were circling the wetland and calling constantly.

Back to the Waxwings and their Privet.

Above me, hundreds of Waxwings were chattering away. This is but one branch..imagine an entire tree full of birds…all talking at the same time. Such social happy birds.
crowdThis was so much fun. Many days, I trudge slowly on the paths, and hope to see a little something interesting…but when the Waxwings arrive…it’s like a blowout party. The Owl came by, the Pileateds circled, and even the Kinglets flitted by, checking the trembling branches for insects.
I was cold, covered in purple splats, and blissfully happy!
So long from Bolin Creek.
Mary K

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Carrboro Passes Volume Controls

What is Carrboro doing about stream protection?

June 26, 2012 Carrboro agreed to pass Jordan Lake rules to reduce nutrients (that is, nitrogen and phosphorus) in rainwater runoff that pollutes our creeks and drinking supplies. Yet, at the same time, developers can still take advantage of an option of making payments in lieu in order to complying with this new standard. Michele Johnson and others Board members asked Town staff to look into the possibility of Carrboro setting up a structure that would allow the Town to bank fees directly toward watershed protection for the benefit of Carrboro creeks. Such a program would set an example for UNC and towns where fees go to projects far away from the damage done to local creeks.

How will the town control for water volume?

A good storm-water program controls for the total volume of water that flows into waterways, the topic of the second ordinance considered by the Carrboro Board on Tuesday night. At a Friends of Bolin Creek Symposium held last February, “Can We Heal Our Local Waterways?,” local watershed professionals identified volume controls as needed as part of local ordinances. Readers can learn more at: http://bolincreek.org/blog/symposium-2/presentations/.

In talking to Carrboro’s Environmental Planner Randy Dodd, we learned the Town considered several approaches in designing the Volume Control Ordinance to address this crucial gap in stream protection. Carrboro’s new volume control ordinance designs storm-water facilities as part of development plans up front, with the advantage that the developers will now know what to expect from the start.

Although technical members of the Friends of Bolin Creek were concerned the permitted volume control numbers were too high, they urged Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen to put in place the new ordinance as a first step. Board members did question the allowable volumes. In the end, Aldermen passed the volume control ordinance unanimously, seeing the wisdom of putting in place a standard that will bring certain improvements to upcoming projects.

For more information see the Carrboro Citizen full article.

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New Plan for Claremont South approved

This statement was presented by Julie McClintock on behalf of Friends of Bolin Creek on April 17, 2012 at a Carrboro Town public hearing for a rezoning application for Claremont South. The application called for commercial space and small homes rather that the affordable townhouses originally planned and approved in a previous permit in 2009.  The two changes to the plan required a rezoning and a new public hearing.  Friends of Bolin Creek asked that the development meet the new Jordan Lake nutrient standards.  Several aldermen asked the developer to honor the standard that would be in place in June but he declined. The rezoning was granted unanimously.

Friends of Bolin Creek’s mission is to protect the Bolin Creek Watershed which has been identified by the State DWQ and EPA as a 303 (d) impaired stream. Carrboro and Chapel Hill have received EPA grants to improve the health of the creek. Our community greatly values this natural treasure.

In February of 2012 we sponsored a water quality forum attended by two members of your Board. At the symposium, “Can We Heal Our Local Waterways?” we identified measures that can be taken by homeowners, governments and utilities to address our local water quality problems to improve and protect our creek water quality. This plan for Claremont South does not meet these measures; it directly poses a threat to Bolin Creek and the Town of Carrboro for the following reasons.

First, Carrboro is now required by state law to reduce nutrient loading into Jordan Lake by 35% total nitrogen and 5% total phosphorus from the 1997-2001 baseline level. Carrboro is in the Upper New Hope subwatershed of the Cape Fear basin. Of the three subwatersheds feeding Jordan Lake, this subwatershed has the largest nutrient reduction requirements. The plan for Claremont South will increase the amount of nutrients currently entering Bolin Creek and thus Jordan Lake. If you pass this development as it is proposed, Carrboro will have to eventually address this nutrient loading. It is far more effective and much cheaper to address reductions before development is put in place. If this plan is passed, taxpayers will have to foot the bill for “retrofits” to try and address this problem down the line.

Second, this development contains a very high percentage of impervious surface. While the proposed sediment ponds may address peak flows of stormwater, they do not address the total volume of stormwater entering Bolin Creek. This will result in erosive flows, reduction of groundwater, and decreased water quality. These are the same issues which have led to Bolin Creek’s impairment, which we are now struggling to mitigate.

Carrboro has taken many progressive actions to protect creeks and the environment, such as establishing stream buffers. Do not let a hasty move here undermine the long term economic and environmental health of Carrboro. It is a lot cheaper to bring about reductions up from with a new development rather then coming back and retrofitting existing development after the fact.

You have approved these rules in draft and when they are approved by the State in June they will be a Carrboro requirement.  Please be proactive and ask the developer as a condition of this development to meet the nutrient standard which will become a formal requirement in a few months.


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Clean up Bolin Creek and Jordan Lake

Join the 22nd Annual Haw River Assembly Clean Up Athon

  • Bolin Creek, Saturday March 24th at Chapel Hill Community Center, 1 – 3 pm
  • Jolly Branch, Monday, March 26th at Chapel Hill High School, 4 – 5:30 pm

Call Betsy Kempter at 919-942-2583 for further information

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March North Bolin Forest Walk

Discover Northern Bolin Forest! Join us for a walk led by Salli Benedict on the Carolina North tract on Sunday, March 4th, 1 – 3 pm. Meet at the Tripp Farm Road entrance to the forest found at the end of Tripp Farm Road off of Hillsborough Road, Carrboro. Bring sturdy walking shoes. Expect gentle grades and wildlife sightings. See map link.

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