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!

What’s Hot?  Friends of Bolin Creek is on record opposing paved surfaces next to creeks because of the ecological damage it causes.  Some members of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and Greenways Commission want to revisit the idea of putting a paved road next to Bolin Creek between Homestead and Estes Drive.  We think there are less expensive, less damaging routes to ensure connectivity.   See map.  Read about our response to this controversial idea in this open letter to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. Sign your name to the petition to keep Bolin Creek natural.

For more information or questions about how to help, contact friendsofbolincreek@gmail.com

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

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

Posted in Birding, Bolin Creek, Bolin Forest, Conservation, Riparian buffers | Leave a comment

An Open Letter to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen

Friends of Bolin Creek sent this letter to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen expressing our strong concern that the Climate Change Task Force recommended a paved road next to Bolin Creek. The Board decided to remove the controversial wording and also asked the staff  to schedule a time to revisit the paving question on a future agenda. Time TBA.


Memo to: Carrboro Board of Aldermen
Re:            Climate Change Report Draft
Date:         November 10, 2015

Friends of Bolin Creek compliments the Carrboro Board of Alderman for initiating ways to mitigate climate change as a local community. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this draft report.

We strongly endorse the recommendation for the town to form a utility to improve stormwater management within the city limits. Stormwater management is a major program element of Friends of Bolin Creek. For the past several years we have spearheaded a volunteer rain garden program modeled on Durham’s Rain Catchers and the highly successful Ellerbe Creek rain garden program. If the Town forms a storm water utility, we will be happy to collaborate with the town to build even more rain gardens that infiltrate rainwater into the ground and keep pollutants out of our waterways.

Although we support most of the thoughtful recommendations found in this report, we are surprised and dismayed that the task force included a 6 year old controversial paving proposal in this draft report. To build a 30 foot wide, two mile paved route to DOT specs (as required when accepting federal funds) through a 425 acre contiguous forest would be counterproductive to the goals of this report.

Given the unjustified and controversial nature of this paving proposal, we strongly recommend removing it so that the draft report can be accepted and moved forward.

A bit of history is needed for those not present when the BOA met this controversy head on in December 2009. The Town had hired a consultant who issued a report with a number of greenway routes. The BOA accepted the majority of the consultant- recommended plans and they were subsequently planned or built.

However, given the widespread concern and evidence that construction close to the creek would harm the natural woodland experience, reduce the value of wildlife habitat, destabilize creek banks, harm water quality, and damage woodland ecology, the Board “tabled” phases 3 and 4 of the consultant’s report and subsequently referred consideration of these options to the Carrboro Greenways Commission. The Greenways Commission discussed the pros and cons of this proposal during a year of meetings and finally adopted a resolution recommending no action because several alternate north-south routes were planned. Both the Board and the Greenways Commission have acted wisely to not take any further action toward paving phases 3 and 4.

A contiguous forest is a rare thing, particularly so in our rapidly growing triangle area.

The Morgan and Little Creeks Local Watershed Plan did a base line study of Bolin Creek and its tributaries in 1994 sponsored by the town of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, the state and EPA, and was overseen by a stakeholder group of officials from all jurisdictions. It is that study that has enabled Carrboro to secure 119 grants from EPA for restoration work in the watershed.

Under the patient and persistence of Carrboro and Chapel Hill leaders over several decades, the plan for Carolina North did not sprawl into the Upper Bolin Creek Watershed. Instead the new campus will be clustered in a compact form on the existing airport runways. The UNC Board of Trustees and Council of State agreed to conserve permanently much of the UNC land in Carrboro’s jurisdiction for posterity, and others tracts for 50 years. This is significantly more protection than Battle Park on the UNC campus now receives. The Board should support these successful efforts by many to conserve Bolin Forest.

Finally, in addition to removing this paving project from this draft climate change report, we strongly support the Transportation Advisory Board recommendation to take a step back and make a comprehensive study of all existing and planned bike and pedestrian connections in the area, including Chapel Hill and Orange County, with an eye towards developing an improved plan for an effective transportation network that can maximize reduction of carbon emissions while also meeting high standards of environmental protection.

Julie McClintock
Salli Benedict
Mary Faith Mount-Cors
Rob Crook
Marty Mandel
Rob McClure
John Morris
Will Raymond
Diane Robinson
Del Snow
Mary Sonis
Joan Widdifield

Posted in Bolin Creek, Bolin Creek Watershed, Bolin Forest, Pavement next to creeks | Tagged , | Leave a comment

You Too Can Build a Rain Garden!

You can learn how to build a rain garden and improve the health of our creeks in our ongoing Rain Garden Program.

Thanks to a Strowd Roses grant, Friends of Bolin Creek has continued our outreach this year to teach community members how easy it is to build a rain garden.  We conducted another successful rain garden workshop in late May where we trained a number of homeowners to build their own rain gardens. They helped dig and plant a rain garden at  a homeowners’ site just off of Bolin Creek.

In late summer, Friends of Bolin Creek let a workshop at the Roger Road Community Center day camp.  Campers learned about critters, native plants and stormwater during a scavanger hunt in the field next door.  Then campers picked up shovels and together dug a rain garden near the entrance of the Roger Road Community Center. This picture captures it all.

Building a Rain Garden at Roger Road Community Center

To read more about rain gardens, see this short video about the 2014 rain garden homeowner workshop and read much more here. Read about the Chapel Hill High School Rain Garden we built with the Town of Chapel Hill Stormwater folks here.

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Spring 2015 Activities


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Spring Wildflower Walk with Dave Otto

Join us for a walk in Bolin Forest to see the Spring wild flowers this Sunday, April 12, at 2:00 pm at Wilson Park.   Dave knows his wildflowers.  Come prepared to brush up your knowledge. Meet at the Wilson Park parking lot. Map here.


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“A Year of Carolina Walks” with Photographer Mary Sonis

Join Mary Sonis, local naturalist and photographer, for this free event. The February 22nd event  has been rescheduled out of respect to Coach Dean Smith whose memorial service will be held at that time.

                                               “A Year of Carolina Walks”

         New time: 2 – 3:30 pm, Sunday, March 22, Chapel Hill Public Library

Email friendsbolincreek@gmail.com for more information.

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Meadowmont Friends of Little Creek

A group of residents of Meadowmont Village gathered at the Little Creek Trailhead on January 15 to begin participation in Clean Jordan Lake’s Adopt-A-Feeder Stream Program. Bolin Creek and Booker Creek join together in Chapel Hill to form Little Creek that flows along the northern edge of Meadowmont Village before turning south to Jordan Lake.

Meadowmont Friends of Little CreekThe Little Creek trail runs along low lying land managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Jordan Lake. Meadowmont resident , Eric Teagarden, has led an effort to improve the trail. He said “When I heard about Clean Jordan Lake’s new program, I knew this would be a good match for us. We see lots of trash washed down to the creek after rainfalls. ”

The Little Creek adoption is the second in Clean Jordan Lake’s new initiative to stop trash from reaching the lake. The first adoption was along the Town of Apex’s Beaver Creek Greenway. Fran DiGiano, President of Clean Jordan Lake, said “Our long-term goal is trash prevention in the entire watershed of Jordan Lake. We soon hope to move even further in that direction with a public education campaign to sensitize watershed citizens to the fact anything thrown on the ground will eventually be flushed to the lake by rainfall events.”

Bill Ferrell, manager of Meadowmont, was on hand for installation of the adoption sign and noted “this should make our residents more aware of their connection to Jordan Lake.” Afterwards, the Meadowmont volunteers forged into the woodlands for their first cleanup. They filled 14 trash bags full of glass and plastic bottles, assorted playground balls, car parts, and other junk. Teagarden added “We plan to tackle another area of the trail on February 8th and probably fill 20-30 more bags.”

DiGiano added “I’m especially pleased to see the growth in our Adopt-A-Shoreline Program, the forerunner to the Adopt-A-Feeder Stream Program, as well as the increase in community service days by various groups throughout the year. Since we incorporated Clean Jordan Lake in 2009, over 3,400 volunteers have participated in about 140 cleanups, large and small. They’ve removed 9,500 bags of trash and an astounding 3,500 tires.”

More details about ways to participate are at cleanjordanlake.org.

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Spreading Understanding of Water Problems and Solutions: CHHS Student Rain Garden Project

This spring, Friends of Bolin Creek teamed up with AP Environmental Science students from Chapel Hill High School to promote rain gardens as a final class project. Skyler, Kat and Bryanna brought many strengths to this project, including artistry, excellent research skills, tenacity and enthusiasm. After researching rain gardens and their functions to capture and clean storm water, improve infiltration to groundwater, provide wildlife habitat and add an aesthetic element to the landscape, the students gained first hand experience by working to maintain their school rain garden.

This garden, a joint project undertaken by the Town of Chapel Hill, CHHS, NC State and Friends of Bolin Creek, was badly in need of some weeding! Skyler, Kat and Bryanna put in 6 hours each of weeding this garden, digging out over 20 bags of invasive species and other weeds. In the midst of this grunt work, the students completed the impressive aesthetic component of their project. Inspired by the potential beauty of rain gardens, the students painted an acrylic landscape piece which they donated to Friends of Bolin Creek.

In their painting, they captured the role of rain gardens to offset the impervious surfaces of the urban landscape, the power of deep roots to provide a cleansing pathway for runoff to rejuvenate groundwater, and the overall beauty rain gardens provide to our landscapes. We will use this lovely painting to create educational materials about rain gardens in support of our Homeowners Raingarden Initiative. We will also be auctioning off the original painting to raise funds for this Initiative. Thank you Skyler, Kat and Bryanna for your amazing efforts in support of Friends of Bolin Creek and our environment!

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FOBC Intern position filled for Fall 2014

Friends of Bolin Creek seeks a part time intern for its Homeowner Raingarden Workshop Coordinator position for fall of 2014. The position of approximately 10/week will run from September through mid November, with the potential for extension into the new year.

Responsibilities include:

  • coordinate fall workshop series
  • interface with homeowners of host garden site
  • recruit participants for workshops
  • prepare workshop materials
  • follow up with homeowners to ensure garden followthrough
  • coordinate plant distributions, including ordering and pickup
  • Pay dependent on experience.
  • Please send resume and letter of interest to Julie McClintock, President of Friends of Bolin Creek at FOBC.rain.gardens@gmail.com.


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