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

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.

Posted in Birding, Bolin Creek, Bolin Creek Watershed, Conservation, Jordan Lake | Leave a comment

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

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

More Bad News from Raleigh

Conservation Insider Bulletin: June 20, 2016

Multiple bills to gnaw away more environmental protections crawled out of the legislative woodwork, plus more news, this week in CIB:

Legislative Watch: Attacks Broaden Against Clean Water and Land Quality Laws

Multiple bills to slash North Carolina’s clean water, air and land protection laws are being pushed forward in the General Assembly.

HB 169, “Regulatory Reduction Act of 2016”:   The NC Senate last week approved legislation to eliminate North Carolina’s electronics recycling program and further gut the ability of state environmental boards to protect clean air and water. These damaging provisions are contained in HB 169, “Regulatory Reduction Act of 2016”. Conservationists targeted this bill for a hard lobbying effort in opposition and were rewarded with strong and well-informed debate on the floor, but anti-environmental votes prevailed 30-15. The bill has gone to the House for deliberation.

HB 169’s biggest problem provisions include these:

1) It would end North Carolina’s electronics recycling program, allowing old equipment with dangerous heavy metals to end up back in landfills.

2) It would block state regulatory boards and agencies, including the Environmental Management Commission (EMC), from enacting rules which would cost more than $100 million over five years. There is no exception for public health protections, environmental emergencies, requirements of federal or state law or courts, or findings of net benefits. It’s an absolute bar which under state fiscal calculation rules is practically assured of clashing with federal clean air and water programs that states like North Carolina have been allowed to manage and enforce.

HB 593, “Amend Environmental and Other Laws”, popped out of Senate committee with 14 pages of newly written material with minimal notice to the committee members and multiple questions left unanswered during initial committee discussion. Provisions would affect stream impact mitigation requirements and waste disposal rules, among other matters. (One provision would double the amount of linear stream impact allowed without mitigation.) However, it was later returned to committee— a well-advised move.

SB 770, “The Farm Act”, would exempt agricultural operations from water withdrawal limits in limited-capacity basins and horticultural operations from sedimentation control requirements. On several fronts, the Senate is working to giveth to favored special economic interests and taketh away from environmental protections for the public at large. All of these late-session rules-slashing moves are carried out with minimal public notice and no transparent development process, unlike the extensive procedural requirements imposed on regular administrative rule-making.

Of course, the Senate doesn’t favor de-regulating everyone. As we see in our next item, if you’re a renewable energy development that may compete with coal, gas, or nuclear power, you’re in line for a regulatory whipping.

Coast Watch: Blocking the Wind

After years of continuing efforts to undercut solar energy development, some members of the NC Senate are ready to block wind energy as well. Last week, the Senate approved on an initial vote HB 763, the so-called “Military Operations Protection Act”, which would give the NC Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) veto power over any wind energy development, even if the U.S. Department of Defense and federal regulators found no conflict between the wind turbines and flight operations. The bill also included a map of supposed conflict zones (approved by the state’s DMVA rather than any of the normal aviation regulatory bodies) that could knock out two major wind energy projects already under development. Wind energy and rural economic development advocates argued against the bill both in committee and on the floor. While it passed its initial vote, the final Senate vote was delayed to this week in order to permit further negotiations.

On the flip side, last week a state administrative law judge denied a challenge to the Amazon Wind Farm project in Perquimans County, allowing it to continue construction. The challengers asserted that changes to the project were enough to lose its exemption to new permitting requirements adopted by the state after it was initially approved. The judge concluded that the changes were insufficient to do so.

Judicial Watch: Supreme Court Rejects Another Air Toxics Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to hear another request by some states and business interests to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2012 mercury and air toxics rule for coal-fired power plants. This rule, supported by environmental advocates as a step forward in cleaning up air pollution from coal plants, had already bounced between the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals twice on various procedural/technical grounds. This latest rejection by the Supreme Court may close the door on continuing challenges to the rule, which has gone into effect.

Environmental Defense Fund general counsel Vicki Patton said, “Today, millions of American families and children can breathe easier knowing that these life-saving limits on toxic pollution are intact.”

Conservationists: Stein Headlines NCLCV event

NCLCV will kick off its efforts to impact the general election with an important event this Wednesday evening.

Senator Josh Stein (D-Wake), Democratic nominee for NC Attorney General, will be the featured guest at an event for NCLCV this Wednesday evening, June 22, in Raleigh. Stein was named the 2016 “Defender of the Environment” at the Green Tie Awards last month for his pro-environment work in the General Assembly.

Other conservationists and pro-environment candidates will take part in the June 22 reception as well. Tickets for the event are still available. For details, see here.

Conservationists: Everett Bowman

Everett Bowman receiving NCLCV’s 2014 Catalyst AwardEverett Bowman, a strong environmental advocate and friend of NCLCV, passed away last week at his home in Charlotte. A generous supporter of land conservation efforts from the Appalachians to the Atlantic, he was recognized just last year as the Stanback Volunteer Conservationist of the Year by the NC Land Trust. NCLCV members and leaders send our sympathy to his family, along with our gratitude for his dedication to protecting our green land today and for future generations.

That’s our report for this week.


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Contact your representative!

From the NC State Sierra Club…..

Dear Environmentalist,
Years of progress — and yes, leadership– in cleaning up our state’s rivers is on the chopping block.  Your help is urgently needed today.

Last week, the NC Senate unveiled and virtually overnight passed a plan that would eliminate many important water quality protections across the state.  There’s hope in stopping these rollbacks, but if we are going to, we need you to contact your NC House Representative today!

First, let me remind you where this story begins.  In the summer of 1995, millions of fish died in the Neuse River, capturing the attention of the state and nation.  The cause? Low oxygen levels due to pollution in the river.

Citizens demanded action and North Carolina began a journey to put programs and policies into place to keep our rivers healthy by limiting pollution. The results?  The Neuse River rules. The Falls Lake Rules. The creation of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

But just last week, the North Carolina Senate voted to reverse course.

The state Senate’s policy rollbacks were added to the budget (Section 14.13) passed on Friday.  The provision would delay implementing rules designed to protect Jordan Lake for the fifth time and — for the first time– delay rules that protect Falls Lake.

Worst of all, in 2020, the provision would repeal the protections for these lakes and replace them  with an unknown alternative.  Together, Jordan and Falls Lakes supply drinking water for over 700,000 people in the Triangle.

That’s not all.

This budget provision would also eliminate one our most cost-effective ways to protect water quality: vegetated buffers along rivers. The Senate voted to get rid of buffer and other water quality requirements for the following impaired waterways in 2020:

  • Neuse River Basin;
  • Tar-Pamlico Basin;
  • Part of the Goose Creek watershed;
  • Randleman Reservoir in Guilford County; and,
  • Catawba River Basin riparian buffers.And again, our existing science-based protections would be replaced with an unknown alternative.We need you to take action today!  Hurry, there’s not much time to contact your state House Representative before the final budget negotiations begin!

    Contact your representative here,

    Zak Keith
    Lead Organizer for the NC Sierra Club
    P.S. – We need you to help protect important water quality protections that keep our public waters swimmable, fishable, and drinkable!

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