Greenways connect carrboro

The benefits of building greenways alongside Morgan Creek and Bolin Creek:

Greenways prevent erosion alongside creeks

Alongside Bolin Creek runs a sewer easement, which means there are sewer pipes that carry wastewater from the neighborhoods that border the creek. The easement is 30-feet wide in most places. Trees have long since been cut down within the easement because their roots would penetrate and crack the pipes over time. The easement is also used by our water and sewage utility to access the sewer pipes, manholes, and creek crossings, which requires heavy vehicle access for maintenance work. The surface of the easement is highly impacted from years of use and is nearly as impervious as asphalt right now.

Erosion is already rampant along the creek resulting from the easement. A greenway project here would include anti-erosion measures and creek restoration. Here is a video made by engineers and stream ecologists at McAdams, the engineering firm that designed Chapel Hill’s greenways, which explains the benefits of greenway projects for creek restoration.

Greenways make public space accessible for everyone, including those in strollers and wheelchairs

Bolin Creek is currently inaccessible to residents pushing strollers, residents that use wheelchairs, elderly residents who have become less surefooted, and residents that have a vision impairment or other limiting circumstances. The envisioned greenway would connect residents with their jobs, schools, and recreational opportunities.

Greenways build a culture of active transportation that scales with our town

About 27% of greenhouse gas generated in the US comes from transportation, and 52% of all trips in the US are less than three miles. One important way we can fight the climate crisis at the local level is by creating opportunities for our residents to reduce their reliance on cars and building a culture of active transportation that scales with our increasingly dense town. A greenway network in Carrboro (that will connect to a greenway network in Chapel Hill) will take cars off the road. The decision to cut down a tree in order to build a resilient transportation network needs to be weighed against the overall alternative of not doing so. (In this case, there is already a path through the forest in the form of a sewer easement. The easement is 30-feet wide in most places and buried beneath it are the sewer pipes that carry wastewater from the neighborhoods that border the creek. Trees have long been cut down within the easement because their roots would penetrate and crack the pipes over time.)

What we know:

A decade ago, a very small group of vocal residents worked to block the greenway in Carrboro for a variety of vague environmental reasons. But many of their reasons don't stand up to scrutiny.

Johnny Randall, the Director of Conservation Programs at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, said many of the environmental concerns are unfounded and there is a strong argument for paving a greenway path, as it decreases runoff.

We know:

  • The birds and wildlife on Chapel Hill's section of Bolin Creek have not been affected by the paved path in Chapel Hill.

  • The Town of Chapel Hill built a greenway on the sewer easement along Bolin Creek between Umstead Park and Community Park, and there is no evidence that the creek has deteriorated as a result.

  • Bolin Creek has been impacted by decades of human activity. There are sewer manholes next to the creek, sewer pipes that carry wastewater across the creek, and the Bolin Forest HOA has built several play structures right up to the creek’s edge. Local landowner PH Craig clear-cut his large forested parcel bordering the creek. The trail along the creek is severely braided in some areas where trail users are avoiding puddles by going around them, widening the trail and encroaching further into the forest. A managed greenway would do more to preserve Bolin Creek than the current easement.

  • Most greenways are built with a mix of federal and local funds. Federal guidelines typically require a paved path to be ten-feet wide, but there is no requirement for ten-foot gravel buffers on both sides. Good engineering practice is to secure the paved surface with two-foot constructed shoulders. The existing sewer easement along Bolin Creek is already wider than that. The Bolin Creek Greenway in Chapel Hill used both federal and local bond funds and does not have twenty feet of buffers

Building the greenway fits the character of Carrboro.

Carrboro embraces projects that produce outcomes resulting in greater equity and climate resilience. The town’s recently adopted Comprehensive Plan calls for just that, and a connected greenway network that takes cars off the road and opens up natural areas for more residents delivers both of those outcomes.

Our town’s biennial community survey showed an enormous interest in greenways.

Building out our greenways is a long-term priority.

Carrboro has been working to plan a connected network of greenways since at least the 1980s. There have been many town planning endeavors aimed at connecting all of Carrboro, from north to south, via a network of open space, greenways and parks. The history clearly shows public desire for uninterrupted biking and walking trails and off road access to natural areas, downtown, schools and other important destinations.

Read a comprehensive history of advocacy and support for greenway expansion here.

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