Earlier this month, I attended an environmental activity with my family at MLK Park in Carrboro. The event was put on by Lands and Water South, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to education and watershed protection. We participated in a (very wet) activity that helped us understand the importance of wetlands, trees, and other ground surfaces like soil that soak up pollutants in an ecosystem. We learned what makes a surface impervious vs. pervious, and how pervious (or porous) surfaces help filter out pollutants before they make their way into waterways.

The activity – which was quite entertaining – made me think about the ongoing discussions concerning the Bolin Creek Greenway. One of the most common criticisms from the anti-greenway faction is that a paved path in the OWASA sewage easement would increase runoff and degrade the quality of the creek.

This would make sense if the corridor along the sewage easement was pervious.

But the surface of the OWASA sewage easement is already impervious, hardened by decades of use and abuse by heavy vehicles and equipment to maintain the sewer line and by the relentless pounding of hikers, bikers and runners who use the path. A memo written by the Town of Carrboro makes that point clear:

This erosion and sedimentation are harmful to Bolin Creek. They cause pollutants to enter the creek, and they dislodge soil particles into the creek itself.

Adding a 10-foot-wide paved path in the existing sewage corridor – which is 30-feet-wide – has the potential to improve environmental conditions in the floodplain. (As Ryan Byars points out, a gravel or natural surface doesn’t work next to Bolin Creek because it’s a floodplain and would wash away.)

That’s because a paved path concentrates people and vehicles, which allows for the stabilization and restoration of the adjacent areas. In other words, by controlling where people and vehicles are in the corridor, we can limit the impact that they have on the corridor and allow vegetation to come back up to treat the water before it enters the stream — which ultimately helps Bolin Creek.


Deep Dive: The Three Alignments for Carrboro’s Bolin Creek Greenway

A side path on Seawell School Road is not a viable alternative to completing the Bolin Creek Greenway

An accessible Bolin Creek Greenway will transform Carrboro — for all

Greenways are an essential part of a sustainable, connected community

Making a Place for Feet: Greenways as Environmental Restoration Projects

Sign up for the Carrboro Linear Parks Project mailing list to get updates on building out Carrboro’s greenway network. Visit the Carrboro Linear Parks Project website for more information. There’s also a helpful FAQ with answers to many questions.

Update: We support the creekside alignment for the reasons detailed here.

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Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....