The News & Observer, Sept. 28, 2004

Third Fork Creek going au naturel

Forest Hills Park to get new channel

DURHAM -- More than a half century after the waterway through Forest Hills Park was straightened into a ditch, Third Fork Creek will start to look like a natural stream again, thanks to a state-financed $980,000 restoration project.

Black silt fencing, heavy machinery and piles of rocks have taken over the center of the park as work to restore the creek began last month. The project, financed by the state's Ecosystem Enhancement Program, is going to create meanders and alter the channel of 3,000 feet of the creek, as well as plant more than 5,000 tulip poplar and sycamore trees, spicebush, witch hazel shrubs and other vegetation.

"We are trying to restore the stream to be close to what it was naturally like," said Perry Sugg, a project manager with the state.

Andy Seamans, president of the Forest Hills Neighborhood Association, said residents had been trying for three years to have Third Fork Creek restored. Seamans said the creek "looked like a canal" with steep banks, and trash washed in during rainstorms and caught on bushes and discarded shopping carts.

"It's just criminal how dirty it is," Seamans said.

Now residents are enthusiastic that something is now being done about "a creek neglected by the city for too long," he said.

Some of the trees that already line Third Fork Creek will be removed during the work, said Laura Webb Smith, public education coordinator for the city's stormwater services division. Smith said the restored creek will slow the flow of water, enabling some of the runoff pollution to be absorbed, and it will provide better wildlife habitat. Third Fork Creek is a tributary of Jordan Lake.

When the restoration is complete in about four months, the Forest Hills Neighborhood Association plans to make the creek more accessible to the people by building walking trails around it, Seamans said.

Michelle Keys, who was visiting the park recently with her 2-year-old son Jackson, said she's happy to see the creek get a new life.

"We will probably go down to see the creek and see fish, if there are any fish," Keys said.

Staff writer Lovemore Masakadza can be reached at 956-2401 or