This year the Triangle Greenways Council continued its organizational rebuilding process for the fourth full year. While more effort was put into strengthening its operational foundation, only modest advancement was made in program activity. Given the general weakness of the overall economic environment for all nonprofit organizations, treading water is the status quo, and this annual assessment is not unexpected and may even be considered somewhat positive. The TGC should be well positioned for a strong rebound over the next year toward realization of its mission.
At last year’s Annual Meeting the membership added one new member to the Board. Norman Camp rejoined after six years of service on a statewide appointment that influenced his resignation from TGC governance. Norm’s return has been a net gain, as no unanticipated loses occurred during the year, and the Board’s overall characteristics have been improved. Further, the Advisory Board created last year was expanded by the addition of Gregory Poole, Jr., thereby adding to the expertise available for consultation.
The TGC completed its third year of focus on strengthening its internal operation as an all volunteer organization that will serve it equally well once it can secure staff assistance. Despite having no chairperson for the Board Development Committee, other members stepped up to address basic needs. The contents of the “Board Member Handbook” was updated, with specific attention to Board of Directors info, annual Goals & Objectives, Budget, etc. Its existence accelerates new member orientation and increases organizational cohesion and effectiveness. Further: (1) the Board began the process of reviewing the TGC’s policies, with the intent to better focus and streamline them, and (2) Larry Giles and William Breazeale [Treasure] are continuing their collaboration on upgrading TGC’s financial management processes on new software.
Another objective for the year was continuation of TGC’s new member and major donor initiative, begun last year. Grady Shields is leading the effort again this year. Optimism is high that lessons learned in the first experience will yield an even greater response and increased capacity for pursuit of TGC’s mission.
Three other TGC programmatic initiatives made progress. (1) A facebook page was constructed, launched, and is being managed by Susan Carl. (2) The organization’s newsletter has continued through its second year, and is disseminated to even more recipients across the region. (3) The TGC’s website continues to be managed and refined by Jon Anderson. These programs connect the organization with its members, agency staff, elected officials, and the public, while advancing its educational and public service missions.
The TGC’s land trust activities were conducted in yet another challenging year. Progress was slowed on almost every project while unexpected complications were addressed, and most were delayed as a result. Grant funding for land acquisition for conservation and open space purposes is also a shrinking resource that may further limit future land trust activity. Fortunately, the NC Conservation Tax Credit is an incentive that has complemented all but one of TGC’s past greenway transactions. The following summary reflects the outcome/expectations related to outstanding grant applications.
1) The TGC is completing its existing grant projects with the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund. No additional grant funds have been appropriated to the CWMTF in the last two years for conservation requisition. These properties will complement proposed greenway corridors and protect water quality.
A 2008 grant project for a 34 acre bargain sale on Walnut Creek was completed. Two months later, one of the prior owners donated an additional adjoining ½ acre parcel to further enhance this conservation effort.
A 2010 grant project involving 3.8 acres on Walnut Creek has been delayed another year while unusual real estate issues are resolved, so it can be added to the Walnut Creek Wetland Park.
2) The TGC remains active in the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative (UNCWI) that is being expanded to include the Swift Creek watershed which is another Raleigh drinking water source. These properties will help conserve proposed greenway corridors and protect drinking water quality and quantity.
A 22 acre property on Chunky Pipe Creek is approved for bargain sale funding, but delayed by foreclosure of the owners. It may close late this year or move to next year.
A 50 acre property on Lick Creek and an unnamed tributary is approved for bargain sale funding, but delayed while liens are resolved. It may close next year.
A 3.9 acre property on Chunky Pipe Creek is awaiting grant application review by the City of Raleigh for a bargain sale, and probably cannot be closed before next year.
A 10 acre property on a Little Beaverdam Creek tributary is awaiting grant application review by the City of Raleigh for transaction and stewardship costs associated with its donation, and probably cannot be closed before next year.
An 18 acre property on a Little Beaverdam Creek tributary is awaiting grant application review by the City of Raleigh for transaction and stewardship costs associated with its donation, and probably cannot be closed before next year.
The TGC Board has also authorized eleven additional Land Trust initiatives for future investigation, negotiation, and refinement before approval is considered for specific conservation proposals. These include the following:
One property on the Neuse River.
Two properties on Walnut Creek.
Three properties on Crabtree Creek or its tributaries.
One property on a Lick Creek tributary.
One property on Little Lick Creek.
One property on Middle Creek.
The TGC Land Trust Committee, chaired by Robert Hinson, is also working on a number of other projects that may rise to actionable status by the Board in the future.
One property on the Neuse River.
One property on a Little Beaverdam Creek tributary.
One property on a Little Lick Creek tributary.
One property on the Flat River.
Multiple properties on an Eno River tributary.
One property on Walnut Creek.
One property on Chunky Pipe Creek.
One property on a Crabtree Creek tributary.
The TGC continued its thirteen year collaborative effort with Partners for Environmental Justice (PEJ) on Walnut Creek in Southeast Raleigh. A number of joint efforts have resulted.
The second annual Walnut Creek Festival was a collaboration among the TGC, PEJ, Friends of Lake Johnson, and the City of Raleigh; with the TGC serving as the fiscal manager. This year rain impacted attendance, but those present had a good experience with educational field day activities, 5K run, public interest displays, and other fun activities.
The TGC and PEJ are continuing to engage the NC Department of Public Safety about their riparian [floodplain & wetlands] corridor along Walnut Creek [that is part of an existing prison unit holding] and could serve a more focused and functional ecosystem purpose if actively managed as a greenway corridor.
The TGC continues to donate educational materials and habitat enhancements to help outfit the Wetland Center and surrounding Park.
The TGC pursues opportunities for visibility, community engagement, and to inform the public about greenways. Susan Carl and David Permar coordinated networking and outreach opportunities.
Planet Earth Celebration/NC Museum of Natural Science sponsor.
National Trails Day/American Trails sponsor.
Bug Fest/NC Museum of Natural Science sponsor.
NC Tomorrow – Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy/TJCOG sponsor.
Wiki Triangle History Blitz/Wiki Triangle sponsor.
House Creek Greenway Dedication/City of Raleigh sponsor.
The TGC periodically takes positions or otherwise comments on issue/project that can impact greenways.
Signed onto a letter in support of Congressional authorization for funding of the national Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Signed onto a letter in support of Congressional reauthorization of the National Recreation Trails Program within the Surface Transportation Act.
Signed onto a letter to the Legislature in support of funding for existing NC land conservation and open space acquisition programs, and participated in a Legislative Lobby Day along with other NC land trusts.
The TGC is a land trust that has directly or indirectly conserved 500 acres for future greenways. As such it is responsible for the stewardship of property while it is under its ownership. This year’s activities on that front have been both routine and imposed.
Annual monitoring tours of each property are conducted to identify any changes that need attention in order to conserve the characteristics required by greenways. TGC members are informed of this monitoring schedule and invited to participate in the tours. This advances understanding of the greenway creation process, natural and historic features of significance, as well as providing an opportunity to experience these lands in advance of their inclusion in the developed greenway systems. These Saturday morning trips will continue in February – May 2013.
Properties acquired with assistance of Clean Water Management Trust Funds are protected by perpetual conservation easements. These require annual monitoring and a report to the CWMTF. The TGC conducted this process for the first time this year, with its volunteers navigating this learning curve.
A “Notice of Violation” was received after a routine city inspection discovered refuse illegally dumped on one of TGC’s properties. Volunteers had to be organized to respond within the required cleanup schedule. On a Saturday morning the volunteers filled a 30 cubic yard dumpster, thereby restoring the site’s quality and avoiding civil penalties.
Two of TGC’s properties adjoin railroad rights-of-way, and this has drawn the organization into a nationwide Optic-Cable Litigation case. These properties are protected under NC Conservation Tax Credit statutes that require all future uses to comply with and protect their conservation purposes. Participation in this legal process is consuming limited volunteer time and effort.
Education and Research are important functions for nonprofit organizations. On the relatively new concept of greenways and their related systems these functions have more significance, because of the need for even greater understanding to support decision-making. The TGC is seeking to expand these activities across the region.
For a number of years, one property held for future connection to the greenway system has been used as an outdoor classroom by an aquatic ecology lab from NCSU. This use is continuing.
Over the years, several workshops have been conducted by the TGC on greenway related issues when funding was available for the purpose. The small grant sought last year was short-listed, but ultimately not chosen. A larger grant was sought this year for a two-year series of workshops, but again it just missed the funding threshold. Other grant applications will follow, because a more consistent understanding of greenway purposes and needs is required among elected officials, government staffs, and design professionals to advance consistent regional greenway network creation.
The TGC also applied for a small grant to support a pilot project that could later yield a web based interactive greenway map for the Triangle region. The grant agency received multiple applications seeking funding for different approaches to similar projects, and they did not choose among them. Other funding sources are being examined for their potential.
The TGC’s contract relationship with the Town of Clayton continues. Having provided landowner contact and negotiation services for the town’s Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) project along the Neuse River, construction is completed and it should be officially dedicated this Fall. The town was also assisted with preparation of a second application that is yielding funds for both additional MST land acquisition and municipal greenway corridors.
The TGC’s relationship for pro bono legal services continued this year, with real estate transactions and closings being handled by Barringer Law Firm LLP. Also, Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP provides a conference room for Board meetings, as well as selected special project and program support.
In summary, 2012 has been a year where the TGC has continued to succeed in its mission. While less robust or expansive as projected, progress has been made during difficult times. Organizational improvements are progressing. Focus on riparian corridor conservation for future greenways, education activities, and service projects is a winning formula that needs to be continued. Moving toward gaining Land Trust Accreditation and advancing local greenway systems and a regional network continues to be the interconnected goals for future success.
William L. Flournoy, Jr.