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!

See the film,   Bolin Creek Unpaved: Saving Carrboro’s Last Urban Forest”   We have a natural treasure right here in town, and each citizen really should know what’s going on as we approach local elections this fall.

Read about our efforts to conserve this special forest of over 400 acres. See map.

Contact us at info@bolincreek.org

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

Stream Repair Clinic

On the third day of February, Friends of Bolin Creek partnered with the NC Dept of Agriculture and Engineering, to make efforts to repair a reach of Bolin Creek. Class participants learned about the difference between stream repair and stream restoration.  Anyone can do repair work to a stream by adding plant materials to hold stream banks.

The class focused on leaning how to use live stakes of various kinds of trees measuring about two feet in length and preparing them to insert in an eroding stream bank to root and to form a shrub tree.  Here are some of the tree species there are to choose from:

Cephalanthus occidentalis Button bush
Cornus amomum Silky dogwood
Physocarpus opulifolius Ninebark
Salix nigra Black willow
Salix sericea Silky willow
Sambucus canadensis Elderberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus Coralberry

The NCSU – Extension online stream repair guide is here.  http://www.dconc.gov/home/showdocument?id=23130

If you would like to participate in future workshops sign up for our newsletter at friendsbolincreek@gmail.com.





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Carrboro’s Carolina North Forest and Bolin Creek garner controversy

Resting in the neck of the woods of Carrboro is the Carolina North Forest, the last untouched forested land of the town — but possibly not for long.

A plan to put a 10-foot wide pavement trail along the 1.7 mile stretch of the forest’s Bolin Creek has become a major subject of controversy, and people on all sides of the issue are very angry.

The Bolin Creek controversy has pitted two different groups of environmentalists against one another: the Friends of Bolin Creek, who say the area should remain a pristine natural area, and most members of the Carrboro Greenways commission, who argued that paving a sewer easement and opening the park up to runners and cyclists has its own environmental benefits.

The fight over the trail started back in the early 2000s, when the Carrboro Board of Aldermen first conceptualized the Bolin Creek Greenway, eager to give Carrboro residents greater access to the outdoors. The plan was formally adopted in 2009, with five phases of development.

Phase 1a of the greenway runs through Wilson Park and was completed in 2013. Phase 2 connects the suburban neighborhood of Lake Hogan Farms and Morris Grove Elementary.

Read more here.

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What’s Happening to the Coal Ash Along Bolin Creek?


The unlined, leaking coal ash dump is underneath the Police Station property on MLK Blvd. The dump site includes a 40-foot high coal ash cliff that is eroding coal ash onto and beyond the public greenway below, depositing coal ash, toxic metals, and other pollutants in the floodplain of Bolin Creek. Tests of the groundwater and soil at the coal ash dump site have found high levels of dangerous pollutants, including arsenic, lead, and chromium. The groundwater and surface runoff from the dump flow directly to the greenway and the creek.

Friends of Bolin Creek has created a website with information about the site and a link to a petition calling on the town to commit to a cleanup. Tell your elected officials that it’s critical that the town deals with this problem responsibly by removing the coal ash! If we don’t speak up, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality may let the town leave the coal ash in this unlined dump along the public greenway forever. Sign the petition here.

As the town prepares to move its police station to a new location, we call upon our elected officials to commit to remove the coal ash to stop the ongoing threat to our water resources and to Bolin Creek Greenway.




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Bolin Creek and Chapel Hill High School

Flooding and mold problems have plagued the Chapel Hill High School over the years. A poor plan when the school was built in the 1960’s placed the building on top of drainage ways and intermittent streams which over time has caused rainwater to flow under and into school buildings during storm events causing mold and flooding problems.

The Chapel Hill – Carrboro School Board decision to devote the available bond funds only to the Chapel Hill High School renovation was an unexpected change in December. The Board and District at first favored two projects: the Lincoln School renovations that combined three projects – a preschool, administrative offices and Phoenix Academy – a choice that seemed to address the capacity concerns, in addition to the Chapel Hill High School renovation.

When the bid for the Lincoln project came in 40% over budget, the Board had to decide how to spend the 72 M bond funds from the long list of pressing needs. After hearing from over a hundred parents and students at a December 7th Board meeting, the School Board voted to make the High School project the top priority project. It is not clear yet how the Lincoln project or the other identified needs will be addressed. Read the Durham Herald article here.


Since the beginning, Friends of Bolin Creek has advocated for a renovated high school school campus that will protect a beautiful stretch of Jolly Branch, a tributary to Bolin Creek and ensure dry classrooms. Last Spring at our request, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district office hosted a site visit “walk-about” to review the current high school plan renovation with Board members, stormwater experts and the public with the objective of understanding the stormwater challenges of the site.

We discussed with the project architects the existing drainage patterns running through the school site and the value of building into the design wetland features that would serve to educate students about habitat, as well as performing a treatment function for stormwater before it enters the creeks.

We believe school board members support our goal of a school design that will avoid future flooding problems and at the same time will protect the fragile ecology of pristine Jolly Branch, a tributary of Bolin Creek.

Here is a simplified time line of major events since the voted approve a bond for schools in the fall of 2016.

  • 2010 – 2012.  Chapel Hill- Carrboro Schools conducts Facilities Study identifying 330 M in needed improvements.
  • November 2016.  Voters pass “Kids and Families” successful county bond campaign for 125 M for schools and 5 M for Affordable Housing.
  • October 2017.  The bid for Lincoln Center exceeds expectations by over 40%. (21M original estimate, now 38M)
  • November 2017.  The School Board and administration requests 30 more million dollars from Orange County to complete the two highest priority projects which includes Chapel Hill High School. Commissioners declined the request and asked the School Board to prioritize what to do with the available bond funds. View County Commission – School Board discussion here.
  • December 7, 2017.   Chapel Hill- Carrboro School Board meeting at Smith Middle School;  Rani Dasi was elected chair and new school board members Amy Fowler and Mary Ann Wolf installed; over 100 speakers request that the School Board make Chapel Hill High School project first priority.
    • Chapel Hill Stormwater Advisory Board members also testified to their concern that despite resource problems, fixing the stormwater issues in the new plan would ultimately lower costs while reaping water quality and educational dividends.
    • At this meeting the newly installed School Board decisively voted for the High School renovation as the first priority.

The unexpectedly high bid for the Lincoln project, the creation of a work group to bring better collaboration between the District and the County, and the subsequent decision to go ahead first with the high school has changed the dynamics. The pause creates an opportunity for a more thoughtful well considered design for the High School renovation.

At the November 20th County Commission meeting,  Superintendent Pam Baldwin proposed an intergovernmental work group to discuss short term, as well as longer term steps to bring about joint School Board/County Commission discussions thus bringing a more collaborative approach to the upcoming funding challenges.

From a stormwater perspective, we think the rebuilding of a new high school offers a terrific opportunity, not only to plan better for dry classrooms and maintain the ecology of our streams, but to inspire and educate students about rain gardens and the natural ecosystem.


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Meet Chief John Blackfeather Jeffries

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Backyard Stream Repair Workshop

PrintAdvance registration is required.  Register here through the NC Extension Office.

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Bolin Creek Unpaved: Saving Carrboro’s Last Forest

fobcmoviefundraiserflier Click here to buy tickets

Email: FriendsBolinCreek@gmail.com  for more information.

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The Amazing Ecology of Bolin Creek

Meeting place is at 210 Cobblestone, Chapel Hill 27516, located in a residential neighborhood back of Bolin Forest.  Enter the neighborhood off of Hillsborough Road. Here is the link to Google Maps.

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No Buffers, No Birds

This article by naturalist Mary Sonis originally appeared in the Chapel Hill News on November 23, 2015.  With a growing appreciation of our birds and the disappearance of wild places, it’s worth rereading.

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

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