Recently, a social media post from anti-greenway group Friends of Bolin Creek caught our attention. It seemed to suggest that paving a 10-foot-wide path along an existing 30-foot-wide sewer easement next to Bolin Creek would be equivalent to deforestation.

This is bananas.

The proposed greenway along Bolin Creek would be built on top of a 60 year-old, 30-foot-wide sewer utility easement that carries sewage (?) from Bolin Forest, Spring Valley, and other developments.

Related: Learn more about Carrboro’s Linear Park Project and sign up for updates to build out Carrboro’s greenway network.


Do trees grow on top of sewer easements?

No, and here’s why:

First, under the easement is buried a 15-inch concrete pipe. This is how your poop (?) travels to the sewage treatment plant. If trees grow on top of the pipe, their roots will very quickly penetrate and crack that pipe, and then your poop (?) would be spilling into Bolin Creek. 
Surrounding trees can also penetrate pipes. This happens in neighborhoods all the time where pipes are buried under the street but trees still reach it from the side of the road. Utilities do root treatment, which means they spray inside of pipes to repel the roots, all over the place.
The second reason you don’t have trees in a sewer easement is that our utility operators need to be able to inspect and service those pipes with heavy equipment. You can’t do this kind of work with trees in the way.
And so for many decades now we have had this wide, tree-less sewer easement running along the creek. This is so the heavy equipment that utilities needs to occasionally bring into the forest can get there.
It looks like this:
To the extent that anyone would call this “deforestation”, that activity already occurred when we developed the northern end of Carrboro. Single family homes are spread throughout our town and each of them required some trees to come down.
And don’t forget the raised manholes. Also a curious natural wonder.
Fair to ask: Would some trees have to come down to build a greenway along this path? Yes, probably.
The trail alignment will require some tree removal. But keep in mind that a mature tree offsets about 22kg of CO2 year. Meanwhile…….building a greenway that would potentially eliminate thousands of car trips a year from people dropping their kids off at school or traveling to the library on a bike would have a giant impact. (.5 ton per year if you reduce car use by just one day per week.)

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Ryan Byars writes about transportation infrastructure, greenways, and how to get around with your kids safely on a bike. He lives in Carrboro with his wife and three young children.