New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee


Easement will restore access to New Hope Creek trail

The Chapel Hill News, November 27, 2003, page A3
© 2003 by The Chapel Hill News

by Kathleen Kearns, Staff Writer

CHAPEL HILL—The demise in 1999 of the old Hollow Rock Store at the Erwin Road Bridge over New Hope Creek meant, among other things, the loss of one entry point to the walking trails of a nearby segment of Duke Forest. The store once served informally as a parking space and trailhead but closed in 1999 after being condemned by the state Department of Transportation so that a new bridge could be built there.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners accepted two conservation easements last week that will restore that trail access and help preserve land along New Hope Creek for both recreational and water quality purposes.

“One of the beauties of this is that it connects open spaces in the Duke Forest network with open spaces along New Hope Creek,” said David Stancil, Orange County's Environment and Resource Conservation Director.

Jeffrey and Angela Fisher, who recently bought the former Hollow Rock Store property, arranged an easement on 1.17 acres, and the Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill arranged an easement on 14.7 acres of creek frontage near Pickett Road.

The Triangle Land Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust, negotiated the easements but will assign them to Orange County, which will in turn assign easements to the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Orange County will retain stewardship responsibility for the properties.

Grant funding from the clean water trust fund covered the cost of the easements. Orange County's Lands Legacy Fund will pay only for closing costs, which are expected to total less than $1,000.

The TLC owns some adjacent property, and the Fisher easement will make it possible to re-establish parking and trail access there.

“This is a key stretch,” said Stancil. “It's one of the missing links in the network. This will go a long way toward meeting the goals set 15 years ago.”

The two parcels, which are situated near but not adjacent to one another, will become part of the strip of open space envisioned in the 1988 New Hope Creek Corridor Master Plan.

The plan originated in the efforts of a small community group to conserve the resource, said Doug Nicholas, director of communication at the Triangle Land Conservancy.

“Folks got together and lobbied their local governments to participate,” he said. “It ended up being an advisory committee representing people from Orange County, Chapel Hill, Durham County and Durham City. The plan was adopted by all four jurisdictions. It's a community plan, a multi-jurisdictional, regional approach to providing conservation on an important resource.

“The vision is to ultimately provide trails from Duke Forest land all the way down to Jordan Lake along the creek,” Nicholas said. “The Trinity School property is a key component of that. There will be a permanent buffer along the creek and public trail access.”

Orange County's Lands Legacy Program works with landowners to protect natural areas and wildlife habitat, the land bordering rivers and streams, farmland, and sites of cultural or historical significance. Landowners participate on a voluntary basis. They maintain the deed to their land but permanently transfer the development rights to the county, which monitors how the property is used.

Since it began in April 2000, the program has protected more than 825 acres of land in the county.

Not counting the recent easements, the Triangle Land Conservancy has protected more than 1,100 acres in Orange County, Nicholas said. In addition, the agency had a role in the preservation of Little River Park, which is owned by Orange and Durham counties.

Stancil said the county hopes to acquire more conservation easements further west in the creek corridor. In addition, he anticipates that more than 400 acres of farmland will come under conservation easement next month.

A closing date for signing and recording the two New Hope Creek easements is expected by mid-December.