Category Archives: Stream Clean-ups

Posts related to stream clean-ups

Durham Creek Week Kickoff features Northeast Creek Critters and Puppet Theater

The 2015 Creek Week Kickoff at Durham Central Park on March 21, 2015 saw the creek critters from Northeast Creek march in the parade with people from the other watersheds in Durham County.

One of the highlights of the event was the Northeast Creek Critter Puppet Theater featuring Woodrow the beaver and Clyde the raccoon and puppeteers Barry Archer and John Apel.

The elms are flowering

This is an article I wrote for the February issue of the Parkwood Inside/Out. We are planning trash cleanups on March 28th and a hike, and will be participating in the costume parade downtown on March 21st and other events for Durham Creek Week 2015. Check this website for announcements and all events will also be posted at:

Creek Week Events

Parkwood’s elms are blooming

Red maples dotting the still bare landscape with blots of crimson are one of the first signs that spring is here, but elms are among the first trees to flower. These prominent trees might be less appreciated because an elm in flower is stormy grey or lime green. Winged elms are the most common species, especially in central Parkwood, but there are slippery elms along the streams and probably American elms, and there are scattered Eurasian ornamentals. The most prominent and beautiful elm I know of in the area is the classically fountain-shaped tree on Highway 54, across from . Because its limbs are all high above the ground, it is hard to identify the species.

Elms, especially American elms, are beloved for the fountain or vaselike shape of mature trees, and there is a graceful symmetry to elms generally. Their leaves and branches alternate, creating an airy lattice effect. The straight veins in their oval leaves, double toothed like a pruning saw, are straight and parallel, but elms also have a very unsymmetric feature – the leaf bases are lopsided, especially in American and slippery elms. Elms have thin, elegant branches, strengthened by very tough wood, and the bark of some species can be twisted into rope. They produce wind pollinated bisexual flowers in early spring, developing into small seeds with a circular flange that drift with the wind several weeks later. The elms generally like moist soil, but winged elms seem to grow in drier soil as well.

The massive, spreading elm in front of Carrboro’s Town Hall could be an American elm (it is big enough for a plaque, yet nothing identifies the species), and I think there are labelled American elms in the Coker Arboretum at UNC. American or white elms are around, but are less common after the arrival of Dutch Elm Disease, a fungus that came to the US around 1930, and is spread by introduced and native beetles that bore in elms. Many elms have been killed, especially American elms, but this seems to be a little less catastrophic than the introduction of chestnut blight and emerald ash borer beetles, and the disease can be managed. American elms are large trees with furrowed bark, brownish leaf buds, and their leaves and stems aren’t very hairy, or less so than slippery elms. Their seeds have some hairiness, while the seeds of slippery elms lack hairs. Both American and slippery elms have large, sandpaperlike leaves, but American elms have greenish flowers, unlike slippery elms. Because their wood is so strong and resistant to splitting, and grips screws tightly, American elms have been used to make things like sports equipment, boats, flooring, crates, and kitchen cutting blocks. Many were planted for landscaping in the northeast, though they grow throughout the eastern USA. In A Natural History of Trees, botanist and nature writer Donald Culross Peattie wrote “If you want to be recalled for something that you do, you will be well advised to do it under an [American] Elm – a great Elm, for such a tree outlives the generations of men; the burning issues of today are the ashes of tomorrow, but a noble Elm is a verity that does not change with time. And although Elms too are mortal, great ones are remembered as long after they are gone as are great men.”

Slippery elms are similar to American elms, but smaller and less vaselike. They have been called red elms, having hairy, reddish leaf buds and reddish flowers, as well as hairy twigs. Their inner bark is slippery and becomes mucouslike when chewed. This inner bark was used to make tea and flour and was used for a variety of internal and external problems and still has an FDA approved medical use. American elm bark was used medicinally by Native American groups.

Winged elms are named for the cork flanges that line their twigs to varying degrees. Sweetgums usually aren’t as winged as elms and their leaves are very different. Winged elms leaves are smaller, smoother, and more symmetrical than those of other elms, and large trees have light brown bark. I think these are the first elms to flower, with brownish flowers that turn into silvery, hairy seeds. As with most trees, winged elms grow a lot when they first leaf out in spring, delicately etched leaves surging forth from the twig tips at a fast clip. The tiny, silky looking new leaves hang as if limp, but are actually strangely stiff. Snow, ice, and maybe hurricanes smashed many of the spindly young loblollies behind the Fire Station around 2002, leaving winged elms, ash, and a few surviving pines as the dominant tall trees, to be replaced themselves by oaks, hickories, and beech in coming decades.

Many animals chew on elm branches, leaves, and seeds, including opossums, rabbits, and bobwhites. The caterpillars that fed on elms are like a who’s who of moths and butterflies, including many of the moths you might see at your porchlights this spring. Double-toothed prominent moth caterpillars feed only on elms. They bite into a leaf and then rest there, so their jagged backs appear like the missing leaf edge. It is surprising that this camouflage works, since elm leaves are emerald green, but the caterpillars are pale seafoam blue and green.

Durham Creek Week 2014 – Clean Up Parkwood Creek

Ten volunteers (eight shown here) cleaned up the creek that runs to Parkwood Lake
Parkwood Creek Clean-Up – Creek Week 2014

Ten volunteers (eight seen here) in three hours cleaned out six bags of trash on Parkwood Creek between Seaton Road and the Lotus Pond on Clermont. Objects recovered from the creek were a couple of small tires, a well-weathered kickball and small football, a length of twisted guywire, and a bent metal table leg.

Events for Durham Creek Week

Durham Creek Week is coming up ( www.durhamcreekweek.org), and there are two events in the Northeast Creek area.

Evening nature hike

Join Northeast Creek Stream Watch for an evening nature hike to see spring wildflowers, singing frogs and toads, and possibly beavers Monday, March 18th at 6pm, starting at the Audubon Park pool (corner of Whisperwood Drive and Solitude Way in southern Durham) and heading towards Parkwood Elementary School.

Northeast Creek trash cleanup

South Durham Green Neighbors (www.sdgn.net), NECSW, and the City/County of Durham are organizing a trash cleanup along the Creek Saturday, March 16th, 9am-12. Parking is available at the intersection of Custer Circle and Euclid Road in the Parkwood neighborhood. Supplies will be provided, but wheelbarrows and wagons would be helpful to get trash out to the road for pickup.

Homeowners Guide to Stormwater Management

New Hampshire Guide to Stormwater ManagementNew Hampshire Homewoners Do It Yourself Stormwater Management
(PDF 56 pp, 10.4MB
The State of New Hampshire has prepared a New Hampshire Guide to Stormwater Management (PDF 56 pp, 10.4MB). The techniques for managing drainage on your property are applicable here.

The guide to native plants, however, is for New Hampshire. Look at the list of native plants under the Explore Your Neighborhood menu on this site for ideas about suitable plants for Chatham, Wake, or Durham counties. Or contact your Agriculture Extension Agent.

Stream clean-up and self-organization

Self-organization is an idea that has become current in the Facebook/Twitter age, but it does not depend on technology.

Self-organization is the process where a structure or pattern appears in a system without a central authority or external element imposing it through planning. This globally coherent pattern appears from the local interaction of the elements that make up the system, thus the organization is achieved in a way that is parallel (all the elements act at the same time) and distributed (no element is a coordinator).

Language and culture are self-organizing. Markets begin as self-organizing. Many of the things that were earlier labeled as the “social contract” are self-organizing. Civil society, those organizations other than corporations or government, are self-organizing.

Stream preservation involves elimination or reduction of:

  • sediment in runoff from property,
  • pollution from human-controlled sources,
  • pollutants in the air that fall out or wash out in rain as pollutants.

Watersheds consist of a tree of catchments. Catchment is another word for a drainage basin that comprises a single segment of a stream (a twig of a limb of the tree pattern of a stream) and the surrounding land from which the water runs off. The people who live in a catchment form the group primarily responsible for the water quality of that catchment. They can most effectively organize themselves to protect that water quality.

The Northeast Creek Streamwatch web site exists to support folks in the Northeast Creek watershed who are already working to improve water quality in their neighborhoods. The front page is for notices of events that clean up a section of the creek, provide environmental education to adults and children, advocate for better water quality, inspect and monitor the creek for deterioration and pollutants, and conserve the buffers on the creek and creek bottomlands.

The front page is for sharing stories about the history of folks who have lived in the Northeast Creek watershed and cultural events that have happened in the area.

The front page is for opinions about the best way to preserve Northeast Creek and its cultural heritage.

It is for teachers to share lesson plans about using the creek for instruction as:

  • a demonstration of scientific facts or principles
  • a laboratory for projects or field work
  • an example for making mathematical problems real and motivating students
  • a subject for art, photography or writing
  • a theme for performance, music, dance
  • a setting for drama
  • a subject for developing research skills in natural history, history, genealogy, measurement, laboratory techniques

It is for calls to advocacy on issues affecting the preservation of the Northeast Creek watershed, its natural heritage, and its cultural history.

If you live or work in the Northeast Creek watershed, the front page is for you.

It is for facilitating the self-organization that can help preserve the creek and its heritage.

To post, you will need a login. Request one from webmaster@northeastcreek.org. You must provide an address and an email address in order to receive a user ID; this is to ensure that folks who post are in the Northeast Creek watershed and to prevent spamming of posts and comments.