Raleigh Nature

October 4, 2009

Walnut Creek Wetland Center opening

Walnut Creek Wetland Center_1_1

Numerous city and parks officials joined a large crowd of citizens for the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of  The Walnut Creek Wetland Center.

Mr West and Dr. Camp listen to Mayor Meeker

Mr West and Dr. Camp listen to Mayor Meeker

Dr. Norman Camp listened to Mayor Charles Meeker, city councilman James West and park officials speak about the new center.  Then the founder of Partners for Environmental Justice , and the man who sheperded this project into being, got up and spoke of the center as a shining new gem in Raleigh’s crown,” as quoted on Raleigh Eco News.

Walnut Creek crowd_1_1

The crowd listened attentively as the benefits for Southeast Raleigh as well as the ecosystem were described and the many supporters and participants were thanked.  Then they were rewarded with a magnificent poem written for the occasion, by Christopher Rowland, a Southeast Raleigh native who wows the crowds at Artspace’s Stammer under the name Langston Fuze.

Chris Rollins reads_1_1

Click here for a 1 minute video clip of the poem 

for the full text of the poem, see the post at

Raleigh Eco News

wetland musicians_1_1

Musicians entertained on the “longest back porch in the Southeast,” and Erin Sterling, architect of record for the project from Frank Harmon Architecture, explained the details of the green design.  The building is 230 feet long and narrow so that all rooms get light from two sides and often three.  It is sloped up to the north and shelters its southern exposure with the long low porch roof.  Raleigh’s final budget did not allow for the planned rainwater cisterns, but they can come later and the gutters now direct into bioretention areas – long rain gardens that surround the space.  The building is on stilts and allows natural water flow under it – important in this floodplain.  Recycled lumber and building materials were used when possible, and native plantings surround the site.

Walnut Creek Wetland center flower bed

Walnut Creek Wetland center flower bed

On the other hand, several of us gazed from the wonderful porch at a huge stand of Microstegia (bamboo or stilt grass) just at the edge of the construction clearing and bemoaned a bit the vast future work entailed in continued future protection of this site and may others in Raleigh.  The educational center will raise awareness of those issues, and provide a much needed amenity and attraction in this part of Raleigh.

Thanks for all your work, Dr. Camp!

Thanks for all your work, Dr. Camp!

The longest porch in the Southeast

The longest porch in the Southeast

Walnut Creek  sign_1_1

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September 28, 2009

Walnut Creek Center opens Tuesday

Filed under: green initiatives, Greenways & Parks, Southeast Raleigh — Tags: , — raleighnaturalist @ 1:20 am
Walnut Creek Center under construction in February

Walnut Creek Center under construction in February

Walnut greenway entrance_1_1

Sue Sturgis at Raleigh Eco News has an excellent post about the new Walnut Creek Wetland Center, which has a grand opening at 5:30 this Tuesday, Sept. 29th.  Raleigh Nature featured the center back in February, describing Frank Harmon’s green design, which Sue explains in detail.

Walnut Creek wetland_1_1

 This stretch of greenway presents some interesting wetland areas, but the largest has suffered from lack of water for the last few years.  I haven’t seen the scene above that wet for a long time – the spot is at the edge of the marsh just below Women’s Prison.  Below is a typical stretch of the creek, which continues to be sand-washed and silt laden.  The new  center is just the focal point of multiple efforts to improve the watershed.

Sandy beach on Walnut Creek east of State Street

Sandy beach on Walnut Creek east of State Street

Info from the center’s website:

Walnut Creek Wetland Center

950 Peterson Street Raleigh, NC 27610

You are invited to come enjoy the center at your leisure, explore our educational displays, wander the greenway trails, relax in a rocking chair on the expansive deck overlooking the floodplain, or ask our knowledgable center staff any questions you may have about the wetlands and wildlife you encounter.

Visitors who want to explore the wetlands more can register for low cost instructional programs. Fun activities for all ages will be offered year-round encouraging the sense of wonder all people feel in their favorite woods, park or local greenspace. Using the variety of natural habitats surrounding the state of the art Wetland Center, park staff will guide visitors in programs that engage students on both a scientific and experiential level. Wetland activities will begin inside the comfort of the center, or on the spacious deck, where visitors will be introduced to the concept of wetlands. The real fun begins when classes take the next step and venture into the wetland to experience nature with their own hands.

Hours of Operation
Tuesday – Saturday 10:00am – Sunset
Sunday 1:00pm – Sunset
Admission: Free

You are invited
Walnut Creek Wetland Center’s Dedication & Open House
Tuesday, September 29th, 2009
5:30-7:30pm
Ribbon-cutting begins at 5:30 pm.
Tours and program demonstrations will follow.

Walnut Creek Wetland Center offers a wilderness experience without leaving the Capital City. Located on 59 acres of undeveloped floodplain near downtown, this new City of Raleigh facility will be the first of its kind.

Sunset at Old Garner Road

Sunset at Old Garner Road

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Raleigh Eco News also posted some important info recently:

Keep those pizza boxes out of Raleigh’s recycling bins

An important reminder from the City of Raleigh:

So you’ve been putting yogurt cups, pizza boxes, and ceramic cups in your recycling bin. Guess what? The City of Raleigh cannot recycle these products.

The top three containers that residents are putting into their recycling bins which the City cannot recycle are:

* Non-bottle shaped plastic items, such as yogurt cups, bags, utensils, and margarine tubs. The City also is urging residents not to put acceptable items into plastic bags when their recycling bin is full. Instead use a box or other container;

* Pizza boxes; and,

* Non-food glass products such as ceramic cups, vases, dishes, plate glass, mirrors and light bulbs.

This is a great reminder, on a local and general level.  If we really want to change our habits relative to recyclable materials, we have to be a bit saavy about consistent appropriate use of the system.  Just as we can’t take disposal and landfill space for granted, we have to understand the basic processes of recycling and help the process work efficiently and cost-effectively.  Great work and thanks, Sue!

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Walnut greenway sign_1_1

Walnut Creek greenway sign

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!

February 22, 2009

News, Notes, and Promises

Walnut Creek greenway at Wetland Center

Walnut Creek greenway at Wetland Center

 Walnut Creek Wetland Park is approximately 59 acres in size and is located between Garner Road and South State Street and south of Peterson Street in Southeast Raleigh. This site contains extensive wetlands that are located near the downtown urban center and offer an opportunity for the public to easily explore and learn about the value and significance of wetlands for water quality and wildlife habitat.     Raleigh City website

      Construction has begun on  the  Walnut Creek Wetland Center, as reported in NandO on February 11.   The center is the culmination of efforts led by Norman Camp to rehabilitate and protect the wetlands of Raleigh’s Southeast.   This topo map shows the area. The new building, shown below, was designed by Frank Harmon, and will stand six feet above the ground and have a minimal ecological footprint.  An earlier post describes some amenities of this section of greenway.

                         walnut-center-side_1_1                         walnut-wetlands-center-front_1_1

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henbit-on-hodge-rd_1_1

    The groundhog definitely saw his shadow, but early signs of spring abound in Raleigh.  Above is henbit between Hodge Road and Crabtree.  Below are red maples blossoms in Oakwood.  There is some cold air coming, so there will be some casualties – though our well-mulched garden parsley and “spinach under glass” on the deck are doing great!

winter-maple-buds_1_1

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     One of the exciting things about Raleigh Nature is the wonderful reader input, and I need to follow up and post about more of it.  There’s always a tension between getting around to it and doing it justice.  Here are a few smoldering issues on my draft posts:

First and most behind: responding to the multiple inputs about Lassiter Mill and Raleigh mill history.  From David’s great pics of the upper water, to the amazing Lassiter mill drive wheel images sent by Jimmy, and the history and memories in the comments, we need to return to this subject soon!  I recently got a fascinating inquiry from Carol about the infilled Lake Boone, and the natural springs that fed it, and I want badly to follow that up.  I very much appreciated the mistletoe tips from Meredith, and dream of my “pecans and mistletoe” map of Raleigh!  Scott, a well-known author, my old friend Joe, and Tommy, a songwriter from my past, all greatly helped my still-unfinished exploration of the Pigeon House Branch system and the expensive new Fletcher Water Park that feeds into it.  We’ve been blessed with an explanation of Raleigh Swamp’s waters by Mark, who engineered it, and we’ve been sobered by the plea for resolution from Deborah concerning Ward Transformer’s lifetime of ecological crimes against our area.    I look forward to sharing Patti’s wonderful hawk story, and keeping Michiel in the Netherlands all caught up on Raleigh’s natural scene.  Mentioning these highlights, many thanks to all who have written or commented.  It really helps the work!

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Oakwood maple

Oakwood maple

     Chris Crew and Matthew Brown just wrote a wonderful article about Oakwood wildlife for our neighborhood newsletter.They are neighbors at the bottom of the slope at whose crest I reside. Between my house and theirs almost every inch is controlled by humans, and the water flowing downhill is piped or culverted.  Below their house, toward Brookside and Glascock, the land opens up just a bit and has some natural edges. As a matter of fact, Chris is uncovering  the section of Grassy Branch in his backyard, and that’s another topic on my to-do list.  Just across the road, though, is Oakwood Cemetery, a significant oasis for many living things.  According to their article, our neighborhood boasts a huge variety of species. Among many bird species they describe, the cedar waxwing invasion for berries and the long-standing nest of red-tail hawks stood out.  Foxes, possums, and a substantial population of raccoons are described.  There are excellent nature lore tips regarding the colors of 5-lined skinks and owl sounds.  I wish the newsletter were online, but if you have a friend that’s a resident, check it out.  Way to go, Matthew and Chris!

PS:  Hope ya’ll like the revised sidebar.

PPS: Matthew very kindly posted the article referred to above HERE.

December 29, 2007

The Walnut Creek Greenway

Filed under: Greenways & Parks, Nature Lore, Southeast Raleigh — Tags: , , , , — raleighnaturalist @ 11:28 pm

State Street Greenway Violets

   From the southern edge of the Carnage Middle School campus, or across from the old water station on Wilmington Street you can access a string of highly varied greenway segments that soon will connect Centennial Campus and the Walnut Creek amphitheatre complex.  Due south of downtown, this stretch witnesses the joining of Rocky Branch with Walnut Creek just east of Wilmington, as well as the final taming and flattening of the Walnut Creek watershed as it approaches the Neuse.  Lots of marshy wetlands, including one right behind Womens’ Prison where a greenway viewing deck offers red-shouldered blackbirds, hawks and (after the drought) some unusual wetland plant species.

December 16, 2007

Raleigh Geography

Filed under: Crabtree Creek, Geographic Areas, Raleigh History, waterways — Tags: , , , , — raleighnaturalist @ 2:19 am

Raleigh in 1872

Google Map of Raleigh

Topo Map of My Childhood

Google Image of Buckeye Trail

   Raleigh is, of course, an invented city.   Planned in advance at a tavern somewhere between Litchford and Falls of the Neuse, drawn in regular squares, purchased from Joel Lane for about $3 an acre, 400 acres of the one thousand purchased were divided and sold in lots to the prominent families who expected to inhabit it, with five large squares reserved for community purposes.  It is reminiscient of D.C. in its ordered squares and patterns of street names, but nevertheless a fairly typical large Southern town in many respects, with a seasoning of “cow-path roads” to leaven those squares.  The early city expanded its boundaries in 1857, avoided destruction in 1865, and then then expanded again in 1907 with some of the South’s first “suburbs,” – serviced by trolley lines!  Hayes Barton, named for the deer-filled English homeland of Sir Walter, was a prime example.  Raleigh’s growth went straight north for many decades after that, but has recently expanded in lots of directions -though not evenly.  Rural scenes can still be had with just a few minutes driving going south or especially east.

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   Crabtree Creek dominates Raleigh geography, just as it does this blog.  It drains a huge swath of land across Wake County.  Its head waters are in west Cary and it empties into the Neuse at Anderson Point just off US 64 East.  In between, it makes a slow northward curve that defined the Beltline right of way with useless lowlands, then slopes southward to its union with the Neuse.  If Crabtree stayed full, it would be a river itself, and it often outdoes the Neuse in flow after heavy rains.  But ours is a low flow water system with periodic normal droughts.  Crabtree often barely moves through the huge ditches it has carved into the sediments of lowland Raleigh.  When it roars, it scours these floodplains with a muddy concoction of tree trunks, lumber and flotsam that can dress the landscape in astonishing sights.  Thus the cheap right-of-way.  But no more!  Stores on huge slabs of fill dirt, townhouses on stilts, rich slopeside houses with mandatory first floor basements – Raleigh has embraced the floodplains.  And Crabtree has been ditched and channeled, dammed and diverted to save the shopping center.  Walnut Creek’s much smaller but intricate watershed drains the southern half of the city.  And Swift Creek below that flows through and forms some of the most fascinating wildlife areas in the Triangle.

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   Water is what maps an area.  We get ours from Falls Lake, due north, and return the treated waste water to the Neuse southeast of here. Crabtree and Walnut Creek wrap around the high ground of downtown and North Hills like bow legs, reaching the river just a couple of miles apart.  Our waterways have gained the dual importance of riparian buffer and wildlife habitat, and the parks and greenways map right on to the waterways with few exceptions. A map of wildlife inside the beltline might as well be a map of the creeks.  So that is where this blog will tend to find itself – streamside.

heron-facing

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