Who are the Friends of the Greene Tract?

Anyone who agrees with the 3 principles listed near the top of our website’s home page is a friend of the Greene Tract, maybe you? There is minimal organization and no money involved, aside from some people spending out of their own pockets for things like a website.

Who started it?

Abel Hastings enjoyed hiking and biking the trails in the Greene Tract and started learning more about the property and it’s history. He learned about the The Rogers Road: Mapping our Community’s Future Report from 2016 that suggested saving 80% of the forest and developing the remaining 20% as affordable housing. It sounded like a good plan.

But by early 2019, the local governments had started seriously considering developing the Greene Tract, and it wasn’t looking good for that 80% 20%.

So, Abel created the Facebook group Friends of the Greene Tract on March 20, 2019 and started trying to spread the word about the forest and the plans.

In 2020, he connected community members living in neighborhoods around the Greene Tract. This group of neighbors from Roger Road, Larkspur, Billabong Lane, Tallyho, Northwood and others living adjacent to the Greene Tract formed the Neighbors United Around the Greene Tract. This inclusive, open-minded, community-first group aimed to promote a shared vision for the future land use of the Greene Tract.

Offline, he connected with fellow mountain biker and local trail enthusiast Adam Searing and the network of concerned friends and neighbors continued to grow, although slowly.

In early 2021, the community is shown the new plan along with an environmental assessment for the Greene Tract. But a lot of people aren’t paying much attention, local politics during a pandemic after all.

And a significant number of people around town still have no idea that the forest is even there. In many ways, the little Facebook group is a bunch of people preaching to the choir. It’s not the best way to spread the word.

So Abel has another friend build a website and create a Facebook Page that anyone can easily join. We start posting there and on Twitter and Instagram, along with the original Facebook Group.

Abel and friends sometimes put a table out at Carolina North Forest to tell people about the forest just across the street that the town owns (instead of the university owned CNF) and most people have no idea it’s there, within walking distance. And the people we have talked to that already know about it say things like “That forest has been my sanctuary through this whole pandemic.”

The fate of the Greene Tract is one of the issues that motivates Adam to run for Chapel Hill Town Council in late summer 2021.

The original Facebook group still exists, and Abel is still advocating for the communities. But we are not really an organization. We’re just a bunch of people who agree with those 3 principles.

So, we know what you are thinking now…

“You’re just a bunch of mountain bikers trying to save your trails.”

It’s true that many of the trails were built by mountain bikers, and some of us are mountain bikers. But most are not. The trails are used by hikers, trail runners, anyone. We support saving the forest even if it eventually becomes a park that forbids mountain biking. It’s not about the trails. It’s about saving more of the forest.

“The Rogers Road Community should be at the center of planning for the future of this forest.”

We completely agree. The community was part of the original Neighbors United Around the Greene Tract group, and that’s why we want to “ensure that large parts (80%) of the Greene tract are permanently preserved as open, natural, space” as stated on page 23 of Rogers Road: Mapping our Community’s Future in 2016.

“Stop hating development! We need it in Chapel Hill.”

We are not development haters. We are smart development supporters. Let’s debate market rate housing on private property where it belongs. Our argument is that doing this to a publicly owned forest should be a last resort, and we aren’t there yet in Chapel Hill.

“Chapel Hill only has so much land available for development.”

That is true, and another reason why we should use part of the land for affordable housing, maybe even more than 20%. But let the developers build market rate housing on private property. Plus, this is the last large forest in town. Shouldn’t we save most of it? There will be no second chance.

“But what about Carolina North Forest?”

CNF is owned by UNC, and we should expect them to develop a significant portion of it someday. The plan has never been to keep it a forest, like UNC’s version of Duke Forest. They’ll likely decide to save chunks of it, like the new environmental assessment proposes for the GTF, but that’s no forest and we shouldn’t plan for it to be there.

“We can always drive to Umstead.”

But wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to drive so much? The GTF, with affordable housing, plus trails, maybe a greenway that connects to mass transit, means more people can live in town, and escape to the woods when they want to, all without a car.

“You are just a bunch of tree-huggers.”

Well, yeah, that’s not wrong, but isn’t cutting down a forest during a climate crisis (and pandemic) just a little bit irresponsible? The many benefits of urban forests are well documented.

“You are just a bunch of NIMBY’s.”

It’s true that many families live within walking distance of the Greene Tract. That’s one of the reasons we think 80% of it would be an excellent park. But many of us don’t live particularly close. We just generally support saving forests, no matter where they are. Rain forest in the Amazon? Yeah, that one too.

It would be safe to say many of us support the Umstead Coalition’s efforts to stop the proposed 400-foot deep rock mine on the Odd Fellows Tract.

NIMBY “carries the connotation that such residents are only opposing the development because it is close to them and that they would tolerate or support it if it were built farther away” according to Wikipedia.

Not us.

How much of the forest do you think the next generation will wish we had saved?

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