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With Growth, Preserving Bolin Creek More Pressing

July 17, 2008

By Ginny Hoyle, The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.

Jul. 17–CHAPEL HILL — If you don’t seize it today, it will be gone tomorrow.

Dave Otto, the chairman of the Friends of Bolin Creek, believes that’s more pertinent now than ever before if the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro hope to preserve the natural environment despite continuing growth and development.

Otto, a local resident and former longtime researcher for the Environmental Protection Agency, gave a presentation on “The History and Future of Bolin Creek” Wednesday at the Horace Williams House, as part of the “Lunchbox Lecture” series sponsored by the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill.

With continuing growth in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, it’s important to ask what the community will look like in 10, 20, 50 and even 100 years from now, Otto said.

“Chapel Hill is already all built out,” so the only thing left to do in order to accommodate additional growth is to “tear down and build up,” he said.

Any green space left in Carrboro is in the Northern Transition Zone, “which is essentially in the Bolin Creek watershed,” Otto said.

P.H. Craig, a well-known local landowner, is in the early stages of negotiation with the town of Carrboro to sell part of a virtually untouched 77-acre parcel, or “the last privately owned creekside property between Estes [Drive] and Homestead [Road],” Otto said.

“There’s so little land left, particularly around Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” Otto said. “This is a tremendous opportunity.”

On the national level, environmental preservation has been “pushed to the side — way to the side” by the current administration, he said.

“While you and I can’t dramatically affect [reduce] global warming, we can do small things,” said Otto, who tries to live by the motto to “think globally, but act locally.”

Every individual spending time and investing energy and enthusiasm into a greener lifestyle can make a difference, he said.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded the Bolin Creek Watershed Restoration Team nearly $370,000 for stormwater management and stream restoration projects. The funding will help repair severe erosion at two sites, Baldwin Park on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro border and a tributary to Mill Race, which flows into Bolin Creek below Hillsborough Street in Chapel Hill.

“It’s much harder to go back and restore a creek than it is if you take the proper steps to preserve the creek in the first place,” Otto said.

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