What we’re about…

Welcome to the website for the Friends of Bolin Creek!

Bolin Creek provides a home for an amazing diversity of creatures, including the rare four toed salamander, both in its waters and in the riparian buffer surrounding it. This stream also feeds into Jordan Lake, which is a water supply for over half a million people! Unfortunately, this wonderful stream is classified as impaired, meaning that it does not pass the standards set by our state for drinkable, fishable waters. In this site, you can learn about how to join us and make a difference to the creek!

You too can build a rain garden and help our creeks. We’ve just completed our Spring Workshop Series and successfully built a rain garden on Pathway Drive.  We’ve trained a number of homeowners who will soon be building their own rain gardens.  Read more here.

Thanks, Friends of Bolin Creek
Artist’s map by Geneva Green, Geneva’s website: Greenstone Quarterly

Posted in Bolin Creek Watershed, Friends of Bolin Creek Community Exchange, Friends of Bolin Creek mission, Friends of Bolin Creek: Can We Heal Our Local Waterways? | Tagged | 1 Comment

Chapel Hill releases stormwater master plan for comment

Chapel Hill has released a draft of the Stormwater Management Program Master Plan. The plan has been under development for a number of years and offers goals and a strategy for attaining them.  It does not come with the additional funding needed to implement the plan.

Town staff is inviting input at these times:

  • Wednesday, April 16 – 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a brief presentation at 11:45 a.m.
  • Thursday, May 1 – 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., with a brief presentation at 4:45 p.m. that will be repeated at 5:45 p.m.

The meetings will be held in Meeting Room B at the Chapel Hill Library, 100 Library Drive.
 The draft Stormwater Master Plan is posted in three sections on the Town’s website here. There are several links because of the large size of the files:  Phase I, Phase II, and Phase II Appendices.
Town staff contact:        Sue Burke, Stormwater Engineer
                    919-969-7266 or sburke@townofchapelhill.org

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Join us for a Spring Wildflower Walk

Join us for a Spring Wildflower Walk in Bolin Forest

Sunday 2 pm,  April 6th  Meet in the parking lot at Wilson Park, Carrboro

Dave Otto will lead us for a Spring wildflower walk in Bolin Forest.  He writes:  “I walked down to the lower bridge and back today and saw seven wildflowers: Trout Lily, Hepatica, Spring Beauty, Bluet, Toothwort, Bloodroot and Woodrush.”

Wildflower list and Bolin Creek T shirts available.

See you there!  Feel free to forward this invitation.


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Rain Garden Homeowners’ Initiative…Build your own rain garden!

We’ve completed the first workshop series of our new Rain Garden Initiative where participants found out how build a home rain garden with help from Friends of Bolin Creek (FOBC)! This series focused on Bolin Forest in Carrboro.  Not only was this workshop a great learning experience, the project built community too as neighbors got to know each other.  We were thrilled that so many signed up to help others to build their rain gardens.  While this series has ended (Feb 22 and Mar 8), we will announce the fall series this summer.

FOBC is a local, grass roots, non-profit organization working to conserve, protect and advocate for Bolin Creek. In this initiative, we are teaming up with local homeowners to build rain gardens. Our goal is to spark the creation of an abundance of rain gardens in Chapel Hill and Carrboro to decrease stormwater runoff, improve water quality, protect land, and beautify our towns.

This program is designed to give homeowners the tools they need to implement rain gardens at home by carrying out a series of hands-on rain workshops in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. In the workshops, homeowners learn how to build a rain garden and implement measures to protect our local streams. By participating in the workshop, a homeowner can also earn assistance toward building their own a rain garden in their own yard! The initiative begins in the Bolin Forest neighborhood and will eventually expand to include other areas in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Ultimately, we envision hundreds of rain gardens across Carrboro and Chapel Hill, reducing the serious runoff and erosion problems that homeowners face.

RG pic


The health of all the streams in Chapel Hill and Carrboro are impaired. Urban surfaces, such as roofs, roads, driveways, lawns and packed soils, prevent water from infiltrating into the ground. Instead, the water flows too quickly into our streams and storm sewers. In streams, the influx of sediment and chemicals as well as the force of the increased surge of water during storms leads to severe water quality problems, impacting local wildlife and our drinking water supply. We are also seeing the negative impacts of erosion and standing water on our lawns. Rain gardens can help reduce storm water problems by slowing storm flow, increasing infiltration, and reducing pollutant flows into streams.



We will build a rain garden! These saucer-shaped depressions temporarily capture rainwater and allow it to slowly sink into the ground. The workshop series will give you the knowledge and skills to construct your own rain garden using native plants that are both flood and drought tolerant, require no fertilizer, benefit water quality and wildlife, and become an attractive feature in your yard. Following the workshop, participants will have the option of receiving additional supplies and assistance from FOBC while supplies last. They also will have the opportunity to form a work group in their neighborhood to assist each other to implement rain gardens.

If you have any questions or would like to become a co-sponsoring organization for this initiative, please email FOBC.rain.gardens@gmail.com for more details.




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Jordan Lake Rules Under Attack

Last session, North Carolina Legislators held up the implementation of the Jordan Lake rules that were intended to raise standards for existing development.  Town and Cities across this large watershed extending from Greensboro to Jordan Lake, an important water supply,  had already begun to prepare for taking the required measures to reduce pollutants entering Jordan Lake for new development.

These rules took years to develop striking a compromise with local governments, industry and environmentalists.  Legislators have formed a study committee to reexamine the rules for existing development and delayed the implementation deadline pending the outcome of the study. One questionable approach is to try to treat all pollution at its source through an in-the-lake pumping technique.  Here is the story on our Friends of Bolin Creek facebook page.  In a December letter to the New and Observer and the Chapel Hill News, Stefan Klakovich responds here in this excellent letter to the Editor.

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Jordan Lake rules face legislative challenge

The News and Observer reports about the Triangle’s upstream fight for the Jordan Lake rules in this Nov 19 story.

— The inter-regional political fight over Jordan Lake is churning again, and upstream legislators who want to delay or loosen environmental rules in favor of “technological solutions” may hold the advantage in the next phase.

Elected officials from Greensboro and Burlington are the largest voting bloc Continue reading

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Dave Cook, Naturalist, Walk in Bolin Forest

Join Us on Bolin Creek and in the Woods next Saturday morning

With Dave Cook, author of the New Piedmont Almanac

          Saturday, Nov 9 at 10 am in Wilson Park Parking lot.

Fall Naturalist Walk: Birds, Flowers, Nuts, Fruits, Mushrooms, Moss and Daytime Owlsand Whatever else we find…


About Dave’s new book.

The new book is encyclopedic in character, at present, more than 340 pages in length, with illustrations, in 10-point font, and in an 8 x 5 ½ page layout. The essays are greatly expanded from the original book and correspond to the sequence of weeks in the cyclical year. The book also features core material for students of the natural systems of the Piedmont, activities that I have developed over some 25 years as an environmental and Natural History educator, science coordinator and public school teacher. The purpose of these activities—more than sixty of them—is to provide the curious with the chance to develop a relationship with the Natural World through observation, participation and play. Two interviews with Tom Ellis, former superintendent of North Carolina State Parks are included in the book, one to lend perspective on the origin of the North Carolina State Parks system and the other a cameo piece in a section of book relating the inspiring environmental success story of the Eno River. Also included in the proposed book is as an interview with Thomas Berry recorded in his Greensboro home in the winter of 2002 as well as several of my own short essays on Nature.



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Learn about Chapel Hill and Carrboro candidates for Nov 5 election

Here is a complete recording of the October 2 Chapel Hill Town Council Candidate Forum sponsored by Friends of Bolin Creek and Neighbors for Responsible Growth

View here:  http://youtu.be/P-MMsFpUkF8


We also asked the candidates to give written responses to questions.  Here are the responses.   Chapel Hill Town Council Candidates Questionnaire Responses


Carrboro Board of Aldermen Responses

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Community Forum for Chapel Hill Council Candidates

 “The Future of Chapel Hill and You”
A  Community Forum for Candidates for the Chapel Hill Town Council presented by Friends of Bolin Creek and Neighbors for Responsible Growth, and supported by many neighborhood and community groups.

Wednesday, October 2, 7:00  – 9 pm

Extraordinary Ventures, 200 S. Elliott Rd
(Across from Whole Foods)

Join us at 7 pm for refreshments and informal conversation with the candidates;  Program starts at 7:20 pm

You and invited experts will pose questions to the Mayor and Candidates for Chapel Hill Town Council.

 All community and neighborhood organizations are invited.
Questionnaire responses will be made available at the event.


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Gasoline in Booker Creek

On Thursday afternoon August 1st, the Contractor at the Family Fare BP station on MLK near Taylor Street dug a hole for a footing for a new canopy, part of a renovation project to spruce up the gas station in order to give patrons more room and protection to the pumps.  He installed a sump pump in the footing hole connected to a pipe leading to a Town storm drain, perhaps because rain was expected that night.

Then the crew went home for the night. A 2 – 3 inch rain began causing the pavement around the footing hole to cave in and puncture the high test gasoline tank.  As the hole filled, the gasoline in the tank mixed with the rainwater, and the automatic pump pumped the mixture into the Town’s stormwater drain discharging into Crow Branch about 2 am.  Crow Branch flows through a number of Chapel Hill neighborhoods, including Old Forest Creek and Coker Hill West and on downstream to Eastwood Lake. A policeman noticed the smell of gasoline at around 5 am and shut off the pump. The EPA made an estimate of pollutant concentrations of gasoline and ethanol – no official numbers yet. Unofficial numbers are 2400 gallons of gasoline of which 10% is ethanol was pumped into Booker Creek.

Though less dense than water, gas has a tendency to float which helped cleanup eforts. Some parts of gasoline evaporate quickly. However there is a dissolved fraction of gasoline with a small but still toxic percentage of compounds such as BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and xylene)  that mix and become dissolved in the water column.  This fraction is extremely difficult to recover and treat and will be pervasive for some time to come. The EPA representative on site explained that an estimated 350 gallons of ethenol mixed into the water will be toxic to fish and wildlife.

Here is the picture story of the impressive emergency response. Emergency vehicles arrive at the lower end of the stream near Eastwood Lake at around 9 am Friday, August 2nd.

Image 1Image 3The first idea to make a dam out of sand did not work as the creek was running too fast to allow the sand to stay in place.

Image 31A baffle is put in place to capture some of the gasoline in case it arrives before dam is built.

Image 32Stone is ordered arriving in large trucks. The dam is begun as a large excavator lifts the stone into the creek.

Image 33Image 43The dam is in place.  A large pipe underneath allows water below the surface to pass on down the creek channel.  The baffles catch some of the gasoline floating on the surface and it is held back.

Image 41Zebra arrives to vacuum the gasoline caught by the baffles.

Image 39The BP station on MLK Jr Blvd, source of the gasoline release into Crow Branch and Booker Creek.

Image 37Gathered are Chapel Hill Fire Department personnel, supported by DENR and EPA experts, Orange County Emergency response, and Orange County Rescue squad who put in a day’s work executing a thoroughly professional response to this emergency.  See Rhame letter from Region 4, EPA.

Remediation is still underway. The Contractor may be liable for remediation costs and well as other enforcement actions. 

Posted in Gasoline in Booker Creek | Tagged | 1 Comment

Rain, floods, and greenways

Carrboro has begun to implement a Greenways Plan.  To understand what the term “Greenway” means read more here. The first section to be paved is only months old.  It begins opposite Estes Apartments on Estes Drive Extension.

See #1 on this Map to orient you to the location. This section of the Greenways Plan was designed to take bikers off a dangerous section of Estes Drive Extension and funnel them through Wilson Park to connect to the wider bike lands on North Greensboro Street.

What went wrong?  We don’t have all the answers. When a 25 year storm occurs with a 6 inch rain in several hours after the ground is already saturated, one can expect flood damage.  But it’s clear that the stormwater facility built nearby did not slow the runoff as intended.  Certainly the impervious pavement which replaced the natural surface located just above the sewer easement increased the velocity and volume of the flooding.  Rainwater ran off so fast it scoured the side on the downhill side of this brand new greenway structure.

First picture looks up the hill on the new greenway. Wilson Park Playground is on the left and the the Adams Preserve kiosk is on the right.


The substantial erosion of the areas next to the greenway foundation is shown in this dramatic photo.  The greenway was constructed on top of what already served as a natural drainage way for Wilson Park.


The depth of the undercut and significant damage is impressive in these pictures.



Posted in Bolin Creek Watershed, Bolin Forest, Greenways see damage from floods | Tagged | 1 Comment