In March, we reported that the Orange-County chapter of the North Carolina Sierra Club looked likely to support the Bolin Creek Greenway. Today, the chapter sent a letter to Carrboro’s town council detailing their support of the Bolin Creek Greenway and the creekside alignment.

Here are the highlights

What is the Sierra Club?

The Sierra Club is one of the oldest and most respected environmental conservation and preservation organizations in the world. The nonprofit organization was co-founded by John Muir and boasts 750,000 members, which includes quite a few us who write for the BlogBlog. Their mission is:

  • To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth;
  • To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources;
  • To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.

The North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club is 50 years old and is currently focused on mitigating climate change and pollution, protecting and ensuring access for all to public lands, and promoting equity, justice, and inclusion for BIPOC and other North Carolinians that have experienced environmental injustices.

The national Sierra Club has campaigns and policies to assist in members’ environmental advocacy.  The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign has, for example, been suing UNC over their coal-burning power plant.  The Sierra Club Smart Growth and Urban Infill Guidance is a guide for activists at all levels of the Sierra Club in implementing their national Urban Infill Policy. Infill and smart growth, as the Sierra Club has defined it, is an antidote to the environmental, social and economic costs of sprawl.

It’s a pretty rad group and we encourage you to join and support them.

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.

What is in the letter from the Orange County Executive Committee’s letter supporting the Bolin Creek Greenway?

According to the draft letter, the greenway is consistent with the Sierra Club’s Urban Infill Policy, which states that the “Sierra Club’s mission in combination with growing threats to our environment require a renewed emphasis on cities and towns where people can live, work, and thrive while protecting and restoring our natural environment and fighting the causes and impacts of climate change.”

Furthermore, the policy calls for “Transit, bike, and pedestrian first approaches to transportation,” among other strategies.

Additional Sierra Club guidance notes that “to fix the rising rates of emissions from transportation we have to change both the physical layout of our communities and transportation infrastructure” and emphasizes the importance of active transportation choices, including “walking, bicycling, and/or rolling, including wheelchairs, walkers, baby strollers, skateboards, scooters.”

And it recommends “Constructing connected network of multiuse trails,” and “providing safe and convenient bicycle and pedestrian connections” to public parks, recreation areas, and schools.

The Bolin Creek Greenway is a fantastic opportunity AND it reflects many of the Sierra Club’s values: connected, accessible, and practicing and promoting the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources.

The Sierra Club letter recognizes these benefits: “They include greater access to nature, to jobs, and to downtown amenities for young people, other folks without access to cars, folks in wheelchairs, and older people who may not drive. People who use active transportation are also healthier, both physically and mentally. While there is no one solution to climate change and community health and sustainability, it is clear that getting our citizens out of cars, as much as possible, is critical.”

Why is the creekside alignment environmentally preferable

As the letter notes, “The Upland Forest route would require cutting down far more trees than the Creekside Alignment” and “The Upland Forest route would connect far fewer Carrboro residents to the greenway. It would not connect to neighborhoods near Greensboro Street nor Hillsborough Street, for example. This will take far fewer cars going into downtown Carrboro off the road. Importantly, it will provide far fewer children with a walkable/bikeable path to school, so it will not address the considerable daily problem of parents idling their cars for 15 minutes at a time in school pickup lines, contributing to both ozone and particulate pollution, and to climate change.”

The letter also highlights a conclusion reached by Town staff that the existing OWASA easement is “already impervious and unstable. This is why state Department of Water Officials in 2009 stated their belief that the Creekside Alignment would be allowed under Jordan Lake rules, and stated that they preferred this alignment because the path is already disturbed.”

We’re thrilled that the Sierra Club has recommended this approach for “a more vibrant, resilient, and equitable Carrboro.”

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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....