WakeNature Preserves Partnership Meeting

Thursday 8:30-10:30
Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, 2616 Kildaire Farm Rd, Cary, NC 27511

Professional Development Theme: Park Visitor Management - Challenges of a Popular Park

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Attendance Notes
Pohlman, Fowler, Teten, Jeffries, Kaytee Smith, Amanda Powell & Dr. Janice Swab (Meredith College), Francis Ferrell + Army Corps of Engineers staff

Annotated Agenda Items

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Introductions as needed

Steering Committee (Scott Pohlman, chairman)
GOAL: Increase momentum by growing active signatory membership.

Brainstorm next year's meeting locations and professional development themes:
  • Walnut Creek Wetland Center wishes to host the first meeting of next year
    • Professional Development theme ideas: Master Planning; community involvement in park management planning/programming
  • Army Corps of Engineers volunteered to host a meeting in the conference room at the Falls Lake Dam
    • Theme ideas: water management; Falls Lake water allocation (currently 40% water supply, 60% water quality - Raleigh wants to increase water supply); Bald eagles; fire demonstration; partnerships with the Army Corps
  • Last year White Deer Park (Garner) offered to host a meeting and we haven't had one there yet
  • Brainstormed - Umstead State Park
    • RDU land/bike trails
  • Brainstormed - TLC Rand Bryan House?

Look over SWOT analysis from last year to see how we are doing and address the areas we are not addressing.
  • Tabled until December meeting

Promotion Committee (Steph Jeffries, chairwoman)
GOAL: Tell the story of the highest quality natural areas in Wake County and the stewardship they have and need.

Article/promotion materials about the workshop?
  • Scott/Kaytee/Steph? working on a paragraph about the workshop
  • Kaytee has a personal list of to-do items for auditing/cleaning-up the website
    • Includes boosting online resources for both the public AND professionals
    • Wishes to connect with John/other experts to ask about feature sights/things to do in Wake County by season

  • Should we send a general invitation to the EENC listserv to join WakeNature? We can also put our meetings/workshops on the EENC calendar without sending out notices via the list serv
  • Mark Johns mentioned Town of Cary's "Chatter" (Saleforce) social media group and the sub-group "Cary Wildlife"

Inventory Committee (John Connors, chairman)
GOAL: Places on the ground - designate publicly accessible WakeNature Preserves.

Bioblitz at Forest Ridge update
  • Inventory Committee members were not present; tabled further discussion until December

Capacity Committee (Gary Blank, chairman)
GOAL: Bring resource managers together to carry out appropriate stewardship of the highest quality natural areas in Wake County.

Workshop at Wildlife Resources Commission update
  • 47 people in attendance (this includes the WakeNature members and the speakers)
    • There were 5 wait-listed individuals for the workshop
  • workshop evaluations have not been assessed - tabled until a summary email can be sent to the working group between now and December

Other Business

  • Internship Fair for STEM students @ NC Museum of Natural Sciences, October 22 from 1-4PM
  • Heard about Amanda Powell's (Meredith College) Terrestrial Field Studies course and her wish to learn about more locations to take students in the County and student opportunities
  • Turnipseed Nature Preserve soft opening in fall (can we do an event/promotion?) and a grand opening in May/June 2018

Professional Development Theme: "Park Visitor Management - Challenges of a Popular Park"

Led by Mark Johns, Operations and Program Supervisor for Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Town of Cary

Hemlock Bluffs is different from the rest of the Town of Cary's typical active recreation-based parks because it is a State Nature Preserve. It therefore faces the challenge of being located in a highly urbanized and accessible location for a park that is supposed to be primarily for nature conservation, education, and passive recreation. For this reason, the staff at the park have had to hone their visitor management techniques and skills, and during today's meeting Mark Johns took us on a hike and shared some of those techniques, described in pictures, below:

  • Hemlock Bluffs has a "Friends of" group that almost solely focuses on fundraising for the Nature Preserve - they sell bricks for the Education Center patio, pictured above.
  • The Park staff have the capacity to work with 4-5 Eagle Scouts/Boy Scout troops per year on construction projects, but the Scouts must be willing to build projects that the Park requests, and not the other way around. The arbor pictured above is one of those projects, as are many of the education kiosks and visitor control structures, like fencing and trail lining, examples below. City of Raleigh shared that Boy Scouts must go through the City's volunteer coordinator to select service projects, the construction/engineering standards for which have been pre-determined and approved by the City (foot bridges, kiosks, benches, etc.).


  • Mulching the trails keeps bare earth trail erosion from going straight into the creek downhill, even during weather events such as Hurricane Matthew. Park staff say it is also useful for corralling hikers and walkers by reminding them where the official trails are, but truly it serves the better purpose of controlling erosion.
  • A "nature dropbox" at the trail head/exit reminds visitors that they should not take anything from the park with them when they leave, including leaves, nuts, sticks, pine cones, rocks, etc.
  • Dead trees that are near the trails in the park are "topped" by a contracted Arborist, with the trunk left to stand as a snag for wildlife purposes
    • The tops of the trees and other downed limbs from around the Preserve are then piled up along the trails leading to the Education Center and parking lot to deter visitors from creating "short cut" social trails through the woods to get back to their cars "faster" - these piles can be advertised as wildlife habitat while serving the dual purpose of deterring these social trails.

  • Trees that fall onto the trails or fall in a weather event are cut up into logs, and left to rot off the trail
    • the staff have found that cutting the logs in half creates an under-log surface area that red-backed salamanders seem to thrive in!

  • The preserve's 226 hemlocks have been treated for Hemlock woolly adelgids 3 times since they were first found in 2010
    • the preserve moved from the pricey solution of treating on their own to working through a statewide working group, which includes the NC Forest Service, to treat the adelgids - this saves the Cary taxpayer dollars and provides a network of support for the preserve staff
  • Hemlock Bluffs is having to consider that controlled archery hunts may be necessary for deer population control in future due to increasing urbanization/development of the surrounding area
  • Other visitor control methods = patrolling preserve boundaries, verbal communication (have only ever had to call police on one more violent person, but when first got started in the 80s they had to work hard to keep people from climbing the bluffs, etc.), and camera traps from wildlife studies on boundaries also tend to help ID specific neighbors that the staff then approach later
  • Fire plan - four years of policy to get started, had to hold a community meeting before the first burn, and the Town planners and neighbors were all VERY nervous for the first time, but now preserve staff don't do anything more than tell the city they will be burning that year
    • Only burn less than 10 acres at a time
  • Mark has been using Turnipseed WakeNature Preserve as an example to argue for more Cary nature preserves (maybe in western part of the city) as opposed to more active recreation parks