Duke Chronicle, Nov. 18, 2002

Duke Forest section sold to state

by Andrew Collins

The University is nearing completion of a sale of over 850 acres of the Duke Forest to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. Vice President for Capital Assets Scott Selig said the land, located along the Haw River in Chatham County, has long been designated for research but is seldom used by the University because of its distance from campus and the lack of access roads.

The $2.5 million gained from the land's sale will be used to reimburse purchases of Duke Forest land closer to home, including along Cornwallis Road and Friends School Road, and possibly to buy new forest land in the future, said Duke Forest Resource Manager Judson Edeburn.

The Board of Trustees decided to sell the land several years ago and the University has since been working with Triangle Land Conservancy, a private N.C.-based land trust, to find a buyer. The state was chosen, in part, because it offers the largely untouched forest a secure and development-free future, said TLC Director of Communications Doug Nicholas.

"It's a good decision, especially since we know the land will be preserved in its natural state in the future, so it's very consistent with our goals for the Forest," Edeburn said.

Carol Tingley, chief of planning and natural resources for the parks division, said the land will be designated a natural area pending the approval of the Council of State and will be used for recreational and educational activities such as hiking, canoeing, nature study, bird-watching and fishing. Befitting its rugged history, the land will not accommodate camping or picnicking.

The University has been a good, if passive, steward of the property, Nicholas said. He added that when administrators explored the options for selling the land, a top priority was to keep it in conservation. Although an occasional class would visit the land on a field trip, research never caught on at the Haw River property, which Edeburn said was a gift from Duke Power to the University in the mid-1960s.

As of now, it is an unmolested forest, albeit particularly valuable because of its location in rapidly growing Chatham County and its position as a popular canoeing site along the Haw River. The University has some other forest property that is distant from its main campus, Selig said, but none possessing the size or strategic water location of the Haw River property.