Just after Intellagirl’s talk on Monday, Sally and others will be making a major announcement about the Morgan Creek Preserve. I can’t be in Merritt’s Pasture for the ceremony, but if you can get out on what promises to be a beautiful day. You can celebrate the preservation of a lot (740 acres) of land in Chapel Hill.
The Chapel Hill Town Council and the Botanical Garden Foundation Inc. will hold a dedication and signing ceremony for the creation of Morgan Creek Preserve at 1 p.m. Monday, March 26.
The public is invited to this special event that celebrates the permanent protection of open space to the south and west of Fordham Boulevard, a woodland corridor that James Taylor called “Copperline.” In all, the citizens of Chapel Hill have supported and helped the Council identify, protect and preserve these and other green spaces and critical natural areas, now totaling about 740 acres.
The Morgan Creek land was amassed in a series of acquisitions with the intent to connect Town-owned open space. Future plans call for walking trails throughout the corridor to connect with the Fan Branch Trail toward Southern Village and the future Southern Community Park.
The signing of the conservation agreement culminates two years of work by a Council Committee led by Council Members Jim Ward, Sally Greene and Ed Harrison. The committee consulted with representatives of the Botanical Garden Foundation and the Triangle Land Conservancy, reviewed sample conservation language, considered maps and aerial photographs, and walked
the property, before presenting its recommendation to the full Council for approval.
The agreement is made up of two parts, the first a conservation easement which will establish, in perpetuity, a 92-acre nature preserve along Morgan Creek from Merritt Pasture to the Chapel Hill town limit at Smith Level Road. The second part is a monitoring agreement, which establishes baseline information for preserve property, and an annual obligation by Botanical
Garden Foundation representatives to monitor the long-term health of the area’s natural elements.
The easement grants to the Botanical Garden Foundation Inc. an interest in all of the Town property that is bounded by the Merritt Pasture on the east, the Carrboro Town line on the west, Culbreth Road to the south, and Fordham Boulevard to the north. Downstream from Merritt Pasture there are several conservation easements on private lots that are held by the Botanical Garden
Foundation and beyond these lie conservation lands of the botanical garden that protect Morgan Creek to the Durham County line.
“Our main goal is to ensure that the property be retained as open space in its natural condition,” said Mayor Kevin Foy. “The easement is structured to protect native plants, animals, and plant communities on the land, while allowing low impact recreational uses that are compatible with the conservation values of the easement.”
Monday’s dedication will be led by Mayor Kevin Foy, Council Member Ward, Botanical Garden Foundation Inc. President Bill Bracey, and North Carolina Botanical Garden Director Peter White. Livy Luddington, a science specialist from Frank Porter Graham Elementary School, and a group of fourth graders will discuss how they use the preserve for frequent field trips to watch for
birds and animal life, identify plants, and monitor water quality in Morgan Creek.
An optional hiking tour of Merritt Pasture will follow the ceremony. Ms. Luddington’s students will lead the tour and demonstrate how they use kick nets to locate salamanders and other invertebrates in Morgan Creek. Appropriate outdoor footwear is recommended for this rain or shine event.
Shuttles will be available starting at noon from the North Carolina Botanical Garden visitor parking lot located off Old Mason Farm Road, and limited parking will be available near an entrance to Merritt Pasture off Meadow Lane. The public is encouraged to call 968-2784 or 968-2787 ext. 214 for a map and directions to the site.