The Greene Tract: Primary Sources & Some Truth-Telling
The history of the Greene Tract goes back to 1984 — when the land was first jointly purchased by the Town of Chapel Hill, the Town of Carrboro and Orange County, and in reality, much longer when you factor in its relation to the adjacent landfill built in 1972. Much has been said recently about the Greene Tract, including the active circulation of cynical and downright false information. I encourage everyone in the community to move beyond the misleading sound bites and learn about the long and deeply troubling history of the decisions made that led to locating a landfill in the Rogers Road community, the broken promises that followed, and the opportunity the Greene Tract offers for redress. Below are useful resources to help you get up to speed:
This is not a new issue. Learn more about the complex history of the Greene Tract: https://www.orangecountync.gov/DocumentCenter/View/15590/History-of-the-Greene-Tract
You think local government moves slowly? Try three local governments. The timeline: https://www.orangecountync.gov/2127/Greene-Tract
The many years of environmental racism suffered by the Rogers Road neighborhood has garnered national attention - a piece in the New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/fighting-environmental-racism-in-north-carolina
There has been extensive community engagement on the Greene Tract’s future, including but not limited to the year-long Community First process documented in the 2016 Mapping our Community’s Future report: https://www.orangecountync.gov/DocumentCenter/View/7717/Rogers-Road-Mapping-our-Communitys-Future
What does the Rogers Road community want? Hear directly from community leaders in local journalist Mike Ogle’s excellent Stone Walls newsletter (and then while you’re there, subscribe to it!): https://stonewalls.substack.com/p/greenetract
Now for some analysis of the politics around the Greene Tract:
Truth-telling: I was going to write some version of this myself, but Caroline Dwyer did a far better job than I would have, and saved me a lot of time, so please read her excellent piece published by Chapelboro: https://chapelboro.com/town-square/viewpoints-greene-tract
About that Parks “data”: And finally, about that data the Friends of the Greene Tract has been sharing far and wide about the lack of access to parks and green space in Chapel Hill. The short version - it’s not true. The longer version follows:
While ParkServe is a good idea, ultimately a tool like this is only as good as the data underlying its analysis, which in this case is incomplete and omits multiple significant local parks and green spaces. Many areas listed on the map as bereft of parks actually have very good access. Just a few examples:
Battle Park, the 93-acre park in the heart of town managed by the NC Botanical Garden is not included. Because this huge piece of land is not classified as a park, all the homes around it are listed as priorities for new parks.
None of the 750-acre Carolina North property, much of which is currently heavily used for recreation purposes, is listed as a park even though it’s likely to remain wholly undeveloped in the short term, and the Carolina North development agreement includes a pledge to permanently preserve 311 acres.
Both the Southern Village and Meadowmont neighborhoods were designed to include multiple small “pocket parks” as well larger natural areas, so that no home was far from a recreational option. Nevertheless, according to ParkServe those residents are lacking park access.
Large swaths of the UNC campus are classified as very high priority for new parks, despite UNC’s ample green space, recreational amenities, and other purposeful open spaces such as the Coker Arboretum and McCorkle Place.
Gorgeous Merritt’s Pasture is not listed as parkland, nor is the Morgan Creek Trail.
The Vineyard Square community is adjacent to Homestead Park, yet the website says Vineyard Square residents lacks access to parks.
Many families routinely access school playgrounds and fields as recreation sites during out of school hours and on weekends- also not included.
In summary, ParkServe has the potential to be a useful tool, but given its incompleteness, its findings should not be used to guide policy decisions and certainly should not be held up to the public as fact. Now that the campaign season is - thankfully - over, I hope that we can shift to more productive dialogue based on facts.