By Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
South Ellerbe Creek, and the greenway that runs alongside it, starts in downtown urban Durham and flows north towards the main stem of the Ellerbe and, eventually, Falls Lake. The South Ellerbe Creek Trail is one of Durham’s most popular. Passing through shaded riparian areas with small pockets of protected urban nature along the way, the greenway connects downtown Durham to the Museum of Life and Science campus and other wonderful nature-based amenities.
The site "is one more small step toward protecting more than 35 acres of South Ellerbe Creek for future generations in Durham,” says Chris Dreps, Land Protection Director at ECWA. The Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association (ECWA) has been working for years to protect and clean up this mile-long urban stream valley. Ellerbe Creek, which flows through the City of Durham and portions of Durham County, contains the highest level of pollutants of any waterway entering Falls Lake. Over the last 20 years, ECWA has worked to protect 15 acres of South Ellerbe Creek.
In late 2022, ECWA became aware that Durham County was in the process of foreclosure on a one-acre forest adjacent to ECWA’s Eva M. Lively Nature Preserve. The owners of the land had passed away, and the heirs of the property were no longer in Durham and were not interested in this mostly floodplain-covered property. ECWA was able to contact the heirs, make them a modest offer, avert a foreclosure, and protect one more important area for South Ellerbe Creek. A win for the landowners, a win for the County, and a win for urban conservation.
The property is part of land originally subdivided to become homes in the Trinity Park Neighborhood, prior to current stream and buffer protection ordinances. This land "is mostly in a mapped floodplain important for nature and downstream water quality, yet based on current city regulations it could have still been graded, paved over, and developed. With this acquisition, this property will now protect habitat for forest birds, protect a greenway corridor, provide needed open space, manage urban flooding, and protect downstream water quality,” says Rickie White, Executive Director of ECWA. This new addition to Lively Nature Preserve sits just west of the creek and greenway, to the south of Club Boulevard. This small forest lies partially in the floodplain and just uphill of some beautiful wetlands and some memorial signage and tree plantings.
This property, although not open to the public, ensures that:
We are fortunate to have great supporters. A special thanks goes to the neighbors from the Tyler Court area who provided funding for needed acquisition funding and long-term management of the property. ECWA is also grateful for a grant from the Alice Zawadzki Land Conservation Fund of the North Carolina Native Plant Society.
ECWA's vision is a living creek connecting human and natural communities in Durham. Through land acquisition, collaboration with the city, and public education, we hope to create a Durham where residents can bike or walk across the watershed and stop at local businesses and nature preserves along the way.