Fayetteville Observer August 8, 2006

Stream may get new lease on life

By Michael Futch
Staff writer

Two or three times a day, Bob Thompson walks his dogs through woods near his
home in the Briarwood neighborhood. He loves the peacefulness of the place.

Blounts Creek flows through the property by the railroad tracks, which used
to be home to the Moose Lodge. The area is overgrown with brush and trees
and littered with empty cardboard beer boxes, a gas grill and other
discarded items.

Like the old lodge, which burned down in 1998, the stream has seen better
days. Sediment from fallen banks, rubbish and downed trees have overloaded
it.

A restoration project is under way to bring life back to the small urban
stream.

The Blounts Creek project is a planned $2.2 million restoration of about
8,000 linear feet of stream. Chad Ham, PWC’s environmental program manager,
said the project will affect 12 to 15 property owners in Briarwood. The
operation remains in the design and land acquisition stages under the
direction of CH2M Hill, an international engineering firm with an office in
Raleigh.

Before on-site work can begin, there’s a matter of conservation easements
being signed and the procurement of a go-ahead permit required from the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers.

The purpose of this urban stream restoration, a joint effort between CH2M
Hill and the Ecosystem Enhancement Program of the N.C. Department of
Environment and Natural Resources, is to help correct the problems that
plague Blounts Creek.

From an environmental standpoint, those concerns include erosion, poor
habitat and instability of the stream. The Fayetteville Public Works
Commission faces the dilemma of protecting a large sewer line that runs
parallel to the creek for 2,000 to 3,000 feet.

The engineering firm is working with the PWC to stabilize the creek’s banks
in some areas. In other places, engineers will carve a new creek bed and the
entire stream will be shifted as much as 50 feet.

“It turns out the creek was a little further on people’s property than we
thought it was,” said Ham, the utility’s environmental program manager. “We
had a public meeting with them in June — the ones directly affected by the
stream being further on their property than initially thought. We couldn’t
proceed unless everyone agreed to move the creek off their property. There
might be one or two outstanding.”
Landowners

Businessmen Charlie Holt and Murray Duggins own the strand of forest land
between the railroad tracks and a row of Briarwood homes off Rolling Hills
Road. Their land connects with the property where the old Moose Lodge stood
by Moose Lodge Pond.

Holt is a former mayor of Fayetteville and part-owner of Holt Oil Co.
Duggins is a developer who builds low-income housing.

Holt owns about 20 acres in the area, with Blounts Creek and the railroad
tracks the boundaries of the property near Robeson Street. The title of that
tract of land off Waterless Drive dates to his grandfather, Walter L. Holt.
Charlie Holt said the state is paying him “in the neighborhood of $15,000
for about 5 or 6 acres that the conservation easement is going to take.”

“It’s going to be nice because it’s going to protect that creek...” he said.
“They’re not going to put the lake (Moose Lodge Pond) back up, but they’ll
get the creek flowing like it used to. They will re-establish the creek so
it won’t erode anymore.”

Though Holt will retain ownership of that sliver of land, he will be unable
to develop the property under the permanent conservation easement.

“The stream will stay intact,” Ham said, “and the buffer will stay intact.”

Duggins owns about 37 acres off Lake Club Drive that he bought a couple of
years ago from the Moose Lodge. That includes an elongated piece of land
that starts near the end of Waterless Street and runs along the railroad
tracks, and some of the property upstream at the former Moose Lodge.

Perhaps 10 or 11 acres of his land, he said, are buildable. Duggins intends
to build houses or apartments on some of his property between the creek and
the tracks.

As for the proposed Blounts Creek restoration, he said, “We think it
certainly improves the property. It gives a nice buffer there. We’re hoping
to get it all finalized there.”

In lieu of paying Duggins cash for the property and conservation easement,
the state has offered to improve the road that leads into what used to be
the Moose Lodge, according to Ham. Duggins also plans to develop some of
that property.

“I don’t know that that’s final,” Duggins said. “We have talked about
several possibilities. Basically, some way the value on what we are giving
them on the conservation easement (with) some credit, cash payment or work
on the road. We were looking at it more as an improvement to the property
more than anything.”

Those discussions remain in the talking stage, he said.

“It’s just improving the road to get us back there and give us access.
Trade-off in giving them land,” he said.

Duggins said the property is not valuable unless “we get a road that’s
buildable back there. We could have put a road in there two years ago.”

The PWC has a stake in the restoration project, too.

A PWC sewer line runs along the creek. Erosion has exposed the line in
places, and severe erosion could jeopardize the line. Repairing the banks or
moving the line would be costly. Because the state is paying for the creek
restoration project, the PWC gets its problem fixed at nearly no cost to the
city or to customers.
Former country club

The Moose club was on property that used to be Briarwood Country Club, which
started taking members from the neighborhood in the middle 1960s. In 1973,
the Loyal Order of Moose bought the 32-acre property for $105,000 at public
auction.

The club included a clubhouse, a pool, two tennis courts and the 7-acre
lake. In 1989, Moose Lodge Pond overflowed and damaged its dam during a
thunderstorm that poured more than 8 inches of rain in about five hours. The
lodge chose not to rebuild the dam.

Eight years ago, fire destroyed the 34-year-old lodge where the Loyal Order
of Moose had met for 24 years.

Bob Thompson has lived in the Briarwood community for 32 years. On an
already hot and humid Wednesday morning, he was walking Blackie and Murphy,
his two dogs, in this area of the subdivision.

Thompson used to swim in the club pool. That Olympic-sized pool is now
filled with dirt. Pine trees and natural vegetation are growing from it.

He was interested in knowing what’s going on so close to his home. Thompson
has seen four or five sets of surveyors working around the site.

What had he heard around the neighborhood?

“Well,” he said, “they’ve talked about putting low-income houses around
here. We never got the real story.”

Thompson loves to take daily walks in the area, and he expressed some
concerns about increased traffic from the building of additional housing. “I
’d be happy to see it stay the way it is,” he said.

Nearby, Blounts Creek gurgled outside an existing culvert. A tree leaned
over the stream at a near 45-degree angle, and a small tire poked out of the
tea-colored water. Closer to the culvert, a football floated in the water.

Steve Miller, who is the design leader on the project for CH2M Hill, said
plans call for ground to be broken in middle to late summer 2007. That’s the
company’s preferred time for planting after finishing the groundwork.

“Our goal is to put in a culvert that’s comparable to the culvert in there
today,” Miller said. “Our goal is not to change any hydraulics of the road.
We don’t want to change nothing that’s out there today. We want to restore
the stream reaches.”

Staff writer Michael Futch can be reached at futchm@fayettevillenc.com or
486-3529.