Every spring, minutes from downtown Durham, a large colony of great blue herons and great egrets build 4-foot wide nests high above Ellerbe Creek. This heron “rookery” is one of the few known nesting sites of great egrets in the entire Piedmont of North Carolina, and this is the one time of year that all of these birds gather to raise their young.
Email the Durham City Council before their May 1st meeting to tell them that you want them to vote “Yes” to support formal protection of this critical and beautiful heron rookery.
The City of Durham owns this critical nesting site, which is part of almost 900 acres of city-owned land in lower Ellerbe Creek and its floodplains. Despite its ecological and recreational importance, this land has no formal protection and so is vulnerable to future destruction.
The NC Natural Heritage Program, with support from Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association (ECWA), is proposing to protect this land as a State of North Carolina Dedicated Nature Preserve. Under this agreement, Durham would enter into a conservation easement agreement with the state on this City-owned creek-side land. The agreement would provide permanent protection, prohibit deforestation and urban development, while allowing flexibility for potential future city uses like critical water and sewer infrastructure or a greenway.
The NC Natural Heritage Program proposed protection of this unique natural heritage site at a City Council Work Session in January 2022. ECWA and NC Natural Heritage Program staff worked closely with City staff to make changes that reduced the original boundary of the site from 284 acres to its current ~240 acres to accommodate staff concerns. Since then, the Durham Open Space and Trails Commission and the Durham Environmental Affairs Board both passed resolutions in support of the preserve. City staff have had enough time to do their review. It's time to act.
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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.