Carrboro Town Council member Randee Haven-O’Donnell

Last week, we released our endorsements for municipal races in Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, and Carrboro. We didn’t endorse Carrboro town council incumbents Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Jacquelyn Gist for what we described as reactionary stances on the town’s providing alternate modes of transit—specifically, building out the Bolin Creek Greenway. This is a contentious issue in Carrboro, and many residents do not believe the Bolin Creek Greenway can or should be developed for pedestrians and cyclists, including reader Michael Paul, who emailed us the following:

I am writing as a concerned Carrboro citizen and a supporter of both Jackie Gist and Randee Haven-Odonnell. 

First, you ought to know that the proposed Bolin Creek Greenway is proposed to be placed in one of the largest intact forested parks in the region and not along primarily residential right of ways, like many greenways are. That makes this unique. I’d be interested to know how the removal of trees to pave a path addresses climate change when there are viable alternative plans that provide safe bike travel lanes along existing paved roads that are climate neutral, financially viable, and protect the environment.  Win – win – win.  That is a progressive position – not a reactionary one.  And that is the position Jackie and Randee have taken.

Second, both of Carrboro’s Comprehensive Plan: both Carrboro Vision 2000 and the new Carrboro Connects ongoing plan place are built from the town’s priorities and the new plan was built after 7 listening sessions and ongoing input from 100s to 1000s of citizens.  Both documents reflect our town’s value of riparian forests for their value in flood control, water quality, recreation, climate control, wildlife and quality of life. Both documents place this as a priority above greenways.  For example,  

“Review and revise the provisions in the Land Use Ordinance as they relate to stormwater and development to provide better protection to streams and riparian areas.

Limit disturbance of riparian areas while maintaining sanitary sewer infrastructure and greenways (BCWRP, 2012) (Little Creek Watershed Assessment, 2003). – Work with OWASA to identify disturbed riparian areas near sanitary sewer infrastructure. Riparian areas refer to terrestrial land in the transition between river or stream to land. Limit any future disturbance to minimum extent and reestablish vegetation when possible.”

Lastly, when this topic has come up in the past and these plans proposed, only a small group of greenway interests have supported it and it was resisted by a much larger population of citizens – which is why those plans have gone nowhere in Carrboro; because the majority of citizens do not want it.

In many ways, this is a classic Carrboro conundrum – pitting environmental protection interests against bike/transportation interests. Sheesh. but, no one is saying we do not need safer alternate modes of transportation – I am a biker and I bike on greenways. But I am also a stream ecologist, a hiker and an environmentalist. Your endorsement implies we can’t have intact forest and access to alternative modes of transportation and better non-car connectivity. That is a false dichotomy.  We can have both and, in so doing, vault ahead of our neighbors to the east in terms of connectivity, livability, equity AND a clean environment. It’s a win-win-win.  

I hope you will publish a retraction/correction and note that these two candidates are on the progressive side of this issue.

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