The Story of Chapel Hill High’s Cross Country Team and Course

Tiger Mascot, Chapel Hill High School

Tiger Mascot,
Chapel Hill High School

Many knew about Carrboro’s 1B Multi-Use route (from Claremont to Homestead Road and then east to Chapel Hill High School.  What almost no on knew until a few weeks ago was that the route would intersect with the High School’s Cross Country Course three times.  The Carrboro Board of Aldemen will meet again this Tuesday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall to discuss the topic.

The team. Chapel Hill High sports a winning Cross Country team.  The girls’ team won the 3A state championship in 2015 and the boys’ cross-country team got second place in the 3A state championship in 2015 this past fall. The girls’ indoor track team won the 3A state championship in 2016. Now, the girls’ (outdoor) track team just won 3A regionals this past Saturday and are favored to win the 3A state championship this coming Friday; the boys got third in the 3A regionals this past Saturday.

The course. Since the Town announced construction would commence a few weeks ago, hundreds of concerned members of the public, including high school students, have attended three Carrboro Town meetings – most of them asking for a route adjustment.

Despite the conflicts with the cross country course, contracts for receiving the money and hiring contractors have already been completed. Can anything be done at this late date to minimize damage to the cross country course while honoring current agreements?

A quick look back.  The recent controversy erupted because:

  • Until several weeks ago, everyone was unaware there was a conflict between cross country facility and new multi-use trail – including the Board of Aldermen, the Greenways Commission and the Transportation Advisory Board, Friends of Bolin Creek, the high school principal, and the cross country team and coaches.
  • This project concept was approved in 2010 but subsequent details of the route were not shared with key stakeholders before the contracts were signed. The Greenways Commission determined that the “green route” was preferable at the Homestead Road and Bolin Creek crossing, but that concept plan did not locate a route through school property.
  • The Board of Aldermen apparently delegated review of plans to staff and the Greenways Advisory Commission whose members say they don’t recall seeing a final project map showing the routes through school property – they meet only 4 times a year.
  • The staff has recently produced a list of outreach efforts, but the bottom line is that the stakeholders, Board of Aldermen, members of the Greenways Advisory Commission were all surprised by the fact that the final plan route conflicts with the High School Cross Country Course.
  • A wonderful championship cross country course that has been lovingly tended for years by a championship team is to be significantly damaged by a “paved multi-use” roadway cutting through and along side the trail that will require at least 20 – 30 feet of clearing where ever it is located.

Mayor Lydia Lavelle stated that she did not know about the multi-use conflict with the course, nor did members of the Board of Aldermen. Friends of Bolin Creek representatives toured the school property in 2010, and assumed, wrongly, that additional pavement would not be needed in addition to the existing asphalt paths already present on the school site.

Clearly it was upsetting for the many runners and walkers who use this cross county trails to learn a contractor hired by the Town of Carrboro was to start construction in the next few weeks on a multi-use 12-foot hard surface roadway that would cross the wooded cross-country trail facility three times.

teamxcountryConsider the incredible history of this remarkable cross country championship team. The running times of cross country runners going back to the 1980’s are listed just outside the entrance to the track. The recent recommendation to remove part of the cross course course diminishes the history of this extraordinary athletic program, especially when there are modifications the Cross Country team and the elected leaders could support.

This news story describes the controversy. The most recent story from the Chapel Hill News suggests the current resolution on the table offers a compromise to all parties, which is NOT the case.

Three of the Town meetings held recently:

  • Cross-country team members turned out at the Board of Aldermen meeting the previous Tuesday, May 3, to express their objections to the planned route. Members of the public, including students, and concerned citizens and Friends of Bolin Creek, requested an alternate route that would refrain from impacting the cross-country course. The BOA asked the Town Manager and Attorney to respond with some options. Video here.
  • A preconstruction meeting was held on Thursday, May 5, for interested parties that included Carrboro Town staff and the engineering firm, Kimley-Horn.
  • On Tuesday, May 11th, the Town attorney returned with a list of financial impacts if the project were abandoned or modified. An option presented by the town staff would require relocating part of the cross country course in order to reduce the crossings from three to one, and would put a portion of the multi- use pavement running for several hundred feet along the woodland trail. Video here.

The question remains:  what can be done at this late date to preserve this wonderful community and school facility without delaying the project?

View map #1 showing the 1B route intersecting with the High School Cross Country course. The most recent proposal would eliminate several of the crossings but would require part of the course to be removed.

1B route intersecting with cross country coursThe alternate route below was proposed at the May 3rd Board of Aldermen meeting. It would remove fewer trees, mean less disturbance of the forest, and less construction cost. It would be safer and mean less conflict for runners and bikers.

Alternate Route

Alternate Route


Fobc logo

 

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NC DEQ Solar Bee Analysis

Last week the North Carolina Division of Environmental Quality Report released a report on the efficiency of the solar bees in Jordan Lake.  Ir was removed from the state website shortly after it was posted.  What we learn is that here is no solution other than to reduce pollution at its source.   NC DEQ Report

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A Wildflower Walk with Surprises!

The blog post from Maria de Bruyn; Posted on April 4, 2016

owl-img_3036c2a9-maria-de-bruyn-resThis past Saturday morning, we awoke to water streaming from the heavens in quite a heavy downpour. A local conservation group, Friends of Bolin Creek, had scheduled a wildflower walk to see some of our ephemeral spring blooms but the wet conditions were not inviting. A decision to postpone the walk to early afternoon was taken – and the weather-people had gotten it right – the sun began shining at mid-day and the temperature rose, creating lovely conditions for a walk after all. A large owl (later revealed to be granddaughter Kate of the group’s president) greeted the small group of intrepid walkers and we set off to see what we could find.  Read more here.

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Clean Up the Coal Ash Dump


Chapel Hill Police station, 828 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Chapel Hill

In May 2014, the Town of Chapel Hill informed the public that a coal ash landfill was found to be located on the site of the Chapel Hill Police Building. For more than a decade in the 1960s and ’70s, this property was used as a burial pit for coal ash. The coal ash in this unlined landfill contains known hazardous substances, including heavy metals that have leached out into the environment and will continue to do so.

The discovery of the coal ash deposit was likely made during a 2013-14 review of town property launched by the staff when considering the sale of town assets. The presence of the coal ash waste undoubtedly complicates the decision to sell the property. Whatever the town decides to do about the location of a new police station, we would expect that our Town will clean up the site. Chapel Hill residents deserve no less.

In a May 2014 letter to Mayor Kleinschmidt, Friends of Bolin Creek urged the Town to clean up the large coal ash dump and not to allow the coal ash to remain in an unlined pit in the center of town. Here is topographical map showing the location of the coal deposit.

The Town hired a consultant Falcon Engineering to make tests and to report to the North Carolina Department of the Environmental Quality (DEQ). Soil samples taken on the site by Falcon in early 2014 identified elevated levels of coal ash metals in the ground water such as arsenic, mercury, chromium, lead, thallium, and other dangerous pollutants. Well test results have been mixed at a new set of well locations, where the counsultant used filtered samples without finding high levels of dissolved coal ash pollutants.

Friends of Bolin Creek has raised questions about the procedures used and the choice of location for the tests, and we have communicated our concerns to the Town and Department of Environmental Quality.

The Town has posted a Web page called “Chapel Hill Coal Ash Disposal Site Remediation Project” containing relevant documents here. In mid 2015, Friends of Bolin Creek requested help from the Southern Environmental Law Center for legal and support services.

Clean up makes a difference.  According to a January 29, 2016 report, groundwater contamination dramatically declined along the Catawba-Wateree River after a South Carolina utility removed the coal ash under a settlement negotiated by the Southern Environmental Law Center. See article.

“These results confirm that when you remove the polluting coal ash, you also eliminate pollution of groundwater,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Duke Energy and North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality must wake up to this reality, learn from South Carolina, and move all of Duke Energy’s polluting coal ash from unlined waterfront pits to safe dry lined storage.  Otherwise, North Carolina’s groundwater will be polluted for years to come.”

North Carolina has more than 30 such sites in 14 different locations across the state. A pipe running under one of the ponds run by Duke Energy in Eden NC ruptured in February of 2014. The coal ash spilled, largely affecting the Dan River which flows into Virginia. The spill is the third largest of its kind in U.S. history.

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Mary Sonis Reprise: “A Carolina Walk in the Woods”

Mary Sonis, photographer and naturalist will join us again for a talk about local wildlife.

Sunday, March 20th at 4:30 – 5:30 pm

Chapel Hill public library

Piliated WoodpeckersWoodpeckerFlier3_20_SM

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A Carolina Walk in the Woods

A Carolina Walk in the Woods

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Bolin Creek hike this weekend, Jan 9

My favorite discovery on moving here years ago, given I’m a transplanted Philadelphian, has been Bolin Creek.

Its upper reaches, between Homestead Road and Estes Drive, offers the most beautiful and contrasting landscape. Here, you will find beaver swamps, Beech-tree forests, steep river banks and volcanic hillsides that trace a more violent geologic past, a mere half a billion years. Particularly impressive is the ancient ravine behind Chapel Hill’s neighborhood of Ironwoods.

Yet, many citizens have yet to discover these wonders. All ages will have a chance this weekend, however, when Friends of Bolin Creek sponsors a two-hour hike at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, at Wilson Park. The hike is free and will feature several well-known experts talking about wildlife, forest ecology and the nature of creeks. Please meet us at the Wilson Park parking lot at 1:50 p.m.

Read more here:

chicadee

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Chapel Hill Booker Creek Watershed Study

Town Announcement:  Learn about what the Town hopes to achieve for improving water quality and reducing flooding by studying the Booker Creek Watershed.  Attend the Lower Booker Creek Subwatershed Study Information session hosted by the Town’s consultant W. K. Dickson.

Join us Thursday, January 7th,
11:30 am – 1:30 pm or  5:30 – 7:30 pm
Meeting Room B, Chapel Hill Public Library

For more information and to take the online survey, visit www.lowerbookercreeksws.org.

At this information session, you will be invited to share your observations and concerns about stormwater issues in the Booker Creek Watershed. Each session will begin with an opportunity to hear a short presentation and ask questions and end with a wrap-up session.

Contact Inga Kennedy at inga@peqatl.com for more information.
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The Town’s stormwater studies will make recommendations about how water quality can be improved and flooding can be mitigated.

Background supplied by CHALT:

Leading up to the May 2014 Ephesus-Fordham Zoning District vote, town council meetings attracted the concern of hundreds of citizens who viewed the new form-base zone zone as a give-away to development interests.  The new zone conferred huge density and “fast-track” review but asked nothing on behalf of the community  interest, i.e.,  community space, energy efficient building or affordable housing.

At the urging of the Stormwater Advisory Board and other environmentalists, the town council agreed to require water quality treatment for each project redeveloped or built in the new district. Maintenance of those stormwater facilities will be paid for by a district tax levied on the businesses in the district.

Control over the volume of stormwater,  as omitted from the plans for the new zone.  Much of the nearly 200 acres of the Ephesus-Fordham district (including Eastgate and Whole Foods area) are located  at the bottom of the Booker Creek watershed.  We can expect that as the 3 – 4 million square feet of already approved projects located in the upper parts of the watershed are constructed,  the volume of water flowing through this area will increase and flooding downstream will increase.

For more information on the North Carolina Legislative Changes to the Town’s development rules and ordinances,  attend the January 14, 5:30 pm briefing at Town Hall. View details here.

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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.

Signed,
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

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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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