Raleigh Nature

June 18, 2009

News, Notes and Another Promise

The Natural View

The Natural View

Why I have posted just once a month for 3 months:

Best reason – my new column on nature and environment at Raleigh Public Record.

Very good one: I have been documenting The Bain Project, posting like a madman at Raleigh Rambles.  The Bain Water Treatment Plant has plenty of relevance for Raleigh Nature, as it used nature’s own filtering process – gradations of rock and sand – to clean water drawn from Lakes Raleigh, Johnson, Benson, and Wheeler.  It and the more ancient pumping  station which served as the city’s first water facility sit beside Walnut Creek (more about Walnut Creek below).  Just behind the Bain facility is a wonderful greenway deck that traverses wetlands strewn with swamp mallow,  huge white blooms that startle in a sea of southern green.

Raleigh Naturalist at Bain

Raleigh Naturalist presents at Bain

 Good news: I have more time now, being a teacher, and I also hope to bring Raleigh Nature readers some neat photos from our anniversary weekend in Charleston and our upcoming trip to Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island.  My promise is at the end of the post.

Walnut Creek greenway at Rose Lane

Walnut Creek greenway at Rose Lane

Lots of happenings around the greenways.  The section that follows Walnut Creek  parallel to Poole Road got flooded Tuesday June 16, along with Rose Lane and other roads near the creek.  The NandO story about the flooding was being followed up the next day by Josh Shaffer, who I met walking Rose Lane when I went to photograph the high water on the greenway. He was hoping to chat with some of the folks who are stranded by high water once every year or so at this dead-end extension of Rose Lane across the creek. I remember quite well my teenage years when Rose Lane dead-ended into a meadow well short of the creek, because we used to drive down there to park in what seemed like deep country in the sixties. Whoever decided to build houses past a perennial wetland with no outlet is the real problem, but the curent residents are facing the consequences.   Josh covers lots of interesting stuff for Nando, from Legos to beloved beer slingers to taking small children to play in cemeteries.  His recent story on kayaking Crabtree Creek   really struck a chord, with its realistic description of the grit, mud and smells encountered on the creek, but I prefer the much quieter section of Crabtree above Lassiter Mill for canoe jaunts.  Getting back to poor Walnut Creek, the heavy rains that caused flooding also sent 15,000 gallons of untreated sewage into the creek upstream in Cary, but the Nando story said no fish kills had been reported.

sliders at Yates Mill_1_1

Newsflash from NandO:  the 4 inches or so of rain also did damage at Yates Mill Pond, pictured above, which has temporarily closed the millsite and trails. Repairs are expected soon.

Lonnie Poole golf course_1_1  The new Lonnie Poole Golf Course around Lake Raleigh is mostly finished and expected to open in July. I posted dismal views and comments about this project in February 08, but when I stopped by recently I felt a little better.  There are lots of wooded buffers, especially next to Walnut Creek, and I must admit the course is looking pretty.

Raleigh skyline from Poole Golf Course

Raleigh skyline from Poole Golf Course

The Fletcher Park water garden is being fine tuned.  Apparently the water level, though quite low down in the retention ponds, was too high for some of the plantings, so a crew came in and extended a kind of penisula of land into the lowest pool, as you can see below.  The crew that explained this to me were taking survey sightings to appraise the work that had been done.  Many of the original plantings had been shifted to higher ground.

new Fletcher peninsula_1_1

The ponds still look pretty muddy to me, but I know time will do wonders. They had an opinion on one item that had been bugging me since the NandO article – springs.  There are no active springs in Fletcher Park, just surface water from the neighborhoods and seep from the ball fields.  Fletcher Park’s lilies are in full bloom!

Fletcher lilies_1_1

There!  All the nature news fit to post.  I can’t promise any certain frequency of posts, but I promise to stay totally committed to getting fresh postings up about nature and wildlife inside or near the beltline.  See you on the greenways!

November 1, 2008

Slow Fall at Dix

 
 
 
 

 

Raleigh from Dix Hill

Raleigh from Dix Hill

 Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802-87) was perhaps the most famous and admired woman in America for much of the nineteenth century. Beginning in the early 1840s, she launched a personal crusade to persuade the various states to provide humane care and effective treatment for the mentally ill by funding specialized hospitals for that purpose.

     306 acres are left from a huge estate that was given over to the benefit of some of our neediest folks.  As the fall colors take their time this year decorating Raleigh’s skyline, so Dix Hill’s fate lingers in the slow balance of state decision.  Walk the big meadow with me and glimpse some early fall colors.

   We turn from downtown and look down at the gazebo and greenway path which runs along Rocky Branch as it follows its new, straightened course beside Western Boulevard.  On that walk we’ll see lots of elusive birds, wild grape, and some small spots of fall color.

     The campus has many historic buildings, massive white and red oaks that ring the meadow, a small grove of highly productive pecan trees, and one open slope that is the joys of all sledders.  Centennial Campus and the Farmer’s Market have already taken the lion’s share of what once was .  Now the state needs to let Raleigh’s long term interests take precedence over a short-time cash windfall.  The folks at Dix 306 are working hard to make that happen.  We should support them any way we can.

     Below is a trace of fall glory in midst of a glorious lingering summer.  Hopefully this image does not represent the sunset of hopes for the landscapes of Dix Hill.

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   I went on this walk partly because of Ashley Sue over at Green Grounded, who complimented me in anticipation of seeing fall colors on Raleigh Nature.  Below are clickable thumbnails of some other sightings at Jones lake off Sunnybrook, and then ending with my all time best fall picture, from the west Beltline.  Happy leafing!

                     

 

 

June 29, 2008

Lake Raleigh and Arnie’s latest project

Filed under: Southwest Raleigh — Tags: , — raleighnaturalist @ 8:20 pm

This post was originally published on Feb 10, 2008.

A great blue heron soars above Lake Raleigh, pictured below. Enjoy these images and then steel yourself: for myself, Russell B., Tom P. and many others, the content of this post is tragic. Places I took my children, I will never show theirs.

The loss of these hillsides, beloved by Raleigh trampers of the non-path, searched (and reportedly sown) by generations of NCSU botanists, studied by students, studded with rich diverse plant and animal populations: this is surely a greater loss in terms of pure ecology than any other Raleigh landscape changes I can think of recently. I know the red clay pictures are unfair, I know the sign (legible if you click on my picture) explains that this will be a model “green” golf course and a lab for NCSU environmental designers (just like the one they are building at the coast just for Basnight!) I even accept that most of these scenes were covered with fairly scrubby trees and was historically cultivated, and that the golf course will offer lots of pluses for wildlife. I was relieved to see the study area still intact on the lake hillside that also contains the new President’s house and Alumni House. But even after the golf course, they are not nearly done building here. Hopefully below is the low spot and it all gets better from here! But I’m sad. Arnold Palmer is designing the course – it’s bound to be pretty traditional design when push comes to shove. Good luck to the foxes! Not much hope for the deer. But then, we’ve got too many of them anyway 😦

see all my golf construction pics

Lake Raleigh photo tour

later post with pics of completed course

January 18, 2008

Yates Mill Ponderings

Filed under: Greenways & Parks, Nature Lore, Raleigh History, Raleigh mills, Southwest Raleigh — Tags: , , — raleighnaturalist @ 2:03 am

The park at Yates Mill Pond is in the purview of this blog – just over a mile from the beltline – but partakes of rural Raleigh and Raleigh history in a profound way that few other sites in that purview do.  The watershed, the mill history, the flood history, the facility and its wonderful homage to all of the previous: here is a nature experience with, truly, something for everyone.  The new center has marvelous open beam vaulted ceilings  and huge window walls that look out on the pond – you feel like you’re in a Biltmore hunting lodge. There is a large set of multi-media displays that give a rich sense of the mill’s multi-family, multi-disaster history.  Back outside, the fishing deck is usually in use, but there are lots of private corners of the pond to explore.

 Walk past the fishing deck and you have a choice of directions to begin a large loop: to the right you can explore a the wet meadow valley around a ridge from the main pond.This trail winds around by NCSU research farmland and then up the ridge to the Penny Road side of the facility.  Currently hurricane damage has closed the connecting segment, so that you are diverted back across the fishing deck to return to the center.

update 6-09 – all 3 trails are open

If you go left after the fishing deck, you are following a trail right beside the pond with twenty specimens of trees, labeled with numbers to go with a brochure available in the center.  There is lots of wildlife, such as the skink seen below. A great place we will return to soon!

 

 

 

 

 

December 31, 2007

Welcome to The Natural History of Raleigh

 fall-on-the-west-beltline_1_1_1.jpg

Fall on the Beltline at Jones Franklin

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Our trees, almost without exception, show the succession process at work, with loblolly pines taking over abandoned land, maples and dogwoods peeking out from under as they age, and hardwoods like oak, hickory and tulip tree slowly rising out of the aging pines as disease and self-pruning clears the way.  This stand on the southwest corner of the beltline exemplifies this science idea and is also a “purty sight” – a common dual theme of this blog.  Look around, check back for weekly posts – thanks for coming!

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The welcome rain this holiday has filled (and muddied) area waterways.  in case you didn’t know it, quite a few sections of greenway flood temporarily on a regular basis.  Under Atlantic Avenue, between Centennial and S. Saunders, and west of Raleigh Swamp are just a few areas where mud will usually reign until the city bobcats come scraping through.  The re-shoring of the greenway deck off Capital Boulevard is still keeping that steeply edged section closed. Joe Miller wrote an excellent recent update on Greenway projects here.

photos of Crabtree creek levels after recent rains

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