Letter to Carrboro Board of Aldermen

Date: June 14, 2016 12:57:56 PM

My thanks to the Mayor and Board Members for taking time and patience to hear from the community about plans for Bolin Creek and the surrounding forest, which is clearly a resource much prized by the citizens of Carrboro.

I undertand that the board is considering a public consultation process on the best management and conservation of Bolin Creek between Homestead Road and Estes Drive, referred to as segments 3 and 4 in the Town’s greenway consultant study. There is a danger that two basic Carrboro values could be put at war with each other, with resultant damage to these values and to Town accord.

It’s clear from comments at recent Board meetings that many place high value on the unpaved trails in Bolin Forest, including the OWASA easement along the creek. Both high school runners and clubs and individuals value having an unpaved surface for running. This love of outdoor exercise and of unpaved nature is fundamental to Carrboro values. The desire to encourage bike use and reduce automobile pollution is just as fundamental to the core values of Carrboro. I have great admiration for the initiative that Carrboro has shown in providing bike trails and all kinds of encouragement and support for bike use both for practical transportation and for recreation.

Both of these central Carrboro values can be protected and the unnecessary creation of a noxious win/lose atmosphere can be avoided. The Board should direct the public consultation process to consider the best balance between paved and unpaved trails, both in the area of Bolin Creek and in the larger community. Considering the Carrboro bike plan, which routes are most important for town wide connectivity? Which trails are most valuable unpaved to serve those who need unhardened running routes and those who enjoy a more natural environment?

It’s worth restating that the unpaved OWASA easement is not a significant source of sediment to the creek or the cause of any kind of environmental degradation. I have observed the easement several times during and after heavy rains to verify this conclusion. The forested slopes above the creek slow down and infiltrate rain water and do not produce significant amounts of sediment. The easement itself is compacted and protected by its rocky substrate and by tree roots. If the easement was eroding and contributing sediment to the creek, it would be obvious. Remember the slides shown of floods at the Homestead Road bridge shown by those who were concerned with safety in this area. The creek water was brown with sediment at this point. The sediment problem in Bolin Creek comes from development and land disturbance upstream from Homestead, not from the part of the creek between Homestead and Estes.

One other critical point has not been mentioned in recent discussions. The town’s consultant report did not recommend paving a greenway along the OWASA easement right by Bolin Creek. The study recognized that this kind of construction would mean the loss of valuable creekside trees that stabilize the creek banks and shade the water. The large amount of grading required along the steep slopes would threaten water quality. The consultant noted that the OWASA sewer line is anticipated to be rebuilt for greater capacity within a few years, and recommended that both the sewer line and any future greenway be co-located further away from the creek.

Whatever decision is made about sewer line relocation and about the paving issue, it would make no sense to pave a greenway over the OWASA easement and then tear it up in a few years when the sewer line is rebuilt.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important community issue.

John Morris