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News Release

For immediate use

Dec. 14, 2006 -- No. 599

Carolina North property management effort aims
to protect natural areas, encourage community use

CHAPEL HILL -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will launch a new property management program for Carolina North next year to protect natural woods, improve trails and encourage recreational use.

"We intend to be excellent stewards of a piece of property with open spaces and natural areas that are important to the future of the university and the community," said Chancellor James Moeser. "The management plan is a proactive move to maintain and enhance areas of the tract that will not be used during the initial 50-year time horizon we envision for development at Carolina North."

Moeser said the management program would benefit local residents and further demonstrate the university's commitment to sustainability at Carolina North.

"We are proud of the strong record of responsible development and innovative environmentally friendly practices on the main campus," he said. "Our expectations for Carolina North are very high - it should be a model for environmental stewardship."

The university will commit an initial $427,000 - including more than $100,000 on an annual basis - to jump-start and sustain the program over the next two fiscal years. The university will hire two permanent and two temporary employees to manage the property daily. The team will help identify and post property lines, map hiking and biking trails, and install signs for trails, maps and information about how the public can use the property. The review of existing trails is expected to lead to decisions about which ones would need to be realigned, abandoned and then maintained in the resulting network.

Other plans include preserving an old mill area and adding picnic facilities, installing appropriate parking along roadsides and purchasing vehicles and equipment for the new staff.

The changes will help address some concerns that have surfaced in recent years because the property has not been actively managed, officials said. The university wants to continue encouraging use of the land by hikers, bikers and others, but in a way that will not harm the property or environment. For example, destructive practices that have occurred in the recent past include the use of motorized vehicles, unauthorized construction of new trails and creation of mountain bike jumps.

Other activities expected to be implemented as part of the new management efforts include insect and tree disease detection, selective tree replanting and cutting, fire control, and not allowing non-native invasive plants such as wisteria and privet to flourish.

Other possibilities under consideration include creating a related Web site, developing educational programs for interested groups or residents, including public school and university students, community members and visitors. In addition, the university plans to establish an advisory committee as a source of community-based information on various aspects of the management program.

University officials expect to hire the new employees to manage the Carolina North tract in 2007, enabling work on site to begin. No specific date has been set yet. They will report to the university's grounds services, which maintains beloved trees, flowers, shrubbery and green spaces on the main campus. They use best environmental practices endorsed in the campus master plan. Their work resulted in the university's selection for a 2005 Grand Award from the Professional Grounds Management Society's Green Star Awards competition, co-sponsored by Landscape Management magazine.

The grounds services staff also has been instrumental in helping develop and carry out recommendations from a task force Moeser created in 2003 to study the landscape heritage and plant diversity on the main campus in connection with construction and renovation projects included in the campus master plan.

The newly planned activity at Carolina North will also complement the university's successful efforts to improve community access to Battle Park, officials said. In 2004, at Moeser's request, the North Carolina Botanical Garden, which is part of the university, assumed responsibility for managing the wooded tract on the east side of campus and downhill from the Coker Arboretum. The park includes trails connecting with key resources such as the Chapel Hill Community Center and the stone amphitheater known as Forest Theatre at the edge of main campus. The changes, which have elicited positive community response, included major improvements to the trails, seating areas at key sites, as well as signage and maps.

The new property management program for Carolina North comes as one of the university's consultants, Biohabitats Inc., held two community meetings this week as part of the process of producing an ecological assessment to inform future planning on the university-owned property. The meetings were part of a series of workshops on technical topics that began earlier this fall to help guide the university's next steps in the planning at Carolina North.

At the same time, the Leadership Advisory Committee for Carolina North is providing community input to the formulation of planning principles that the university will use in the development of plans for submission to local governing bodies as part of the regulatory process. The report is due by March, and the committee is working to complete it sooner.

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Related Web links: http://www.unc.edu/community/, http://research.unc.edu/cn/latest.php

Contact: Mike McFarland (919) 962-8593, mike_mcfarland@unc.edu