Black Meadow Ridge
The following two essays were written in support of the initiative to preserve Black Meadow Ridge and for the its transfer, along with West Point on the Eno Park, into the Eno River State Park.
Polishing the West Point Jewel 
Riverdave's Journal

This essay was published in the Durham News Section of the News & Observer on 11/29/08
The main concern that I hear from my fellow Durhamites, who express hesitation about a state park solution for preserving Black Meadow Ridge, is a fear that the state might reduce accessibility and curtail existing popular programs at West Point Park.  I want to assure all concerned citizens that the Friends of West Point Park have done their homework!  N.C. State Park officials on every level have informed us that under state management they see no reason to terminate any of our unique programs.

There are countless examples of contracted programs providing services for N.C. State Parks. As the city council has now directed our city manager to negotiate with the state, it is up to Mr. Bonfield to request and secure a status quo agreement for West Point’s traditional programs.
At the age of one, my parents took me camping at Hanging Rock State Park and carried me to the top of its highest peak in a nap sack. Since that day I have visited and camped in most of the parks in our state system.  I find our state’s style of management to be most amenable to the human spirit that seeks relief from the often wearying mandates of modern urban culture. 

Our state parks are not overdeveloped as Virginia’s are with manicured lawns, cement pools and high user fees. N.C. State Parks allow the visitor to walk back in time and experience a life well connected with nature and our rural roots.  I find N.C. State Park staff to be courteous, middle of the road folks, functioning as both outdoor educators and law enforcement officers. Our state park facilities are distinguished by an aura of simplicity and cleanliness from the cookout grill and the picnic table to the restroom and the visitor center.

Through my lifetime of meaningful interaction with N.C. State Parks, I have developed an implicit sense of trust that I now heartily commend to my fellow citizens of Durham as we consider the transfer of the management of West Point on the Eno from city to state.  I encourage all citizens of Durham to drive out to the Eno River State Park headquarters at the end of Cole Mill Road and explore the range of opportunities that are offered to the public. 

Make an appointment to speak directly with the superintendent Dave Cook if you have a nagging question. (telephone 383-1686)  You will discover well maintained trails and efficient garbage and recycling programs. Ask yourself if the state rangers you meet, all who have both education and law enforcement training, are the kind of staff that would best serve you at West Point on the Eno.

I have observed that the proper management of large tracts of parkland require the resources that a municipal government generally does not command. The citizens of Durham would best be served by allowing the state to manage the large tract of West Point on the Eno and remandating  our city government to focus its resources on raising the quality of it’s needy sixty neighborhood parks and burgeoning greenway trails system.

If West Point is indeed the “jewel” in the crown of Durham’s parks as many say, it will continue to be so under state management.  There will be no loss for us as citizens.  Our opportunity now is not a “takeover,”  but instead a transfer, an upgrade of care and management. N.C. State Parks stands ready to help protect our jewel from a potentially calamitous  development on the adjoining Black Meadow Ridge and then polish our West Point jewel to a higher degree of shine and luster.

A New Focus for Durham Parks 
Riverdave's Journal 
This essay was published in the Durham News Section of the News & Observer on 12/06/08

         After graduating from Durham High School in 1970, my first full time job in life was to direct the summer youth club program at Sherwood City Park off of Miami Boulevard in East Durham. I recently revisited that Durham neighborhood park and was dispirited by what I found - a discarded pile of tires by the entrance drive, trash everywhere including beer cans and bottles, no recycling bins, graffiti on the picnic shelter equipment and the baseball diamond in a state of disrepair. There were no restroom facilities available. East Durham’s main waterway, Goose Creek, contained discarded play equipment and bicycle tires, its banks badly eroded and lined with unsightly invasive plants. Worst of all, on a Sunday afternoon, there was not a person in sight ...

          In the coming weeks as we consider the possible transfer of the management of West Point on the Eno to the N.C. State Parks system in order to preserve Black Meadow Ridge,  I find it appropriate to reconsider the City of Durham’s mandate to maintain its other sixty smaller neighborhood parks.  Sherwood is not the only municipal park in Durham in need of attention.  All across our city are opportunities to revitalize our neighborhoods by investing in park clean up, structure repair,  maintenance and the hiring of environmental and recreation specialists from diverse ethnic backgrounds. If we make this a  priority, we can reclaim the once thriving neighborhood parks that I so fondly remember from my youth in Durham in the fifties and sixties.

          Releasing West Point on the Eno to state management could mark an opportunity for the citizens of Durham to begin a new era of focused neighborhood park enhancement. We now have a choice to allow North Carolina State Parks Parks to do what it does best by managing our largest stretch of public parkland along the Eno River. At the same time we can then encourage our municipal government to rededicate itself to give more loving care to our smaller but equally cherished neighborhood parks. This makes good sense to me. 

          Connecting our city parks with a completed greenway trail system is a second local mandate that urgently needs more attention. Greenways hold a great deal of importance to the future of our community, serving as both recreation and transportation corridors.  Let the citizens of Durham have attractive and safe opportunities to move our stiff and awkward urban bodies with walking, running, cycling and skating!  With diplomacy and sensitivity, let’s work together to remove the remaining obstacles that have stalled the completion of a greenway trail connection between downtown Durham and West Point on the Eno Park!

          And let’s allow our beloved Eno RIver to take a big step towards unified management in Durham and Orange Counties.  There are some management issues like fish, wildlife, invasive plant, alcohol use, pets off leash and law enforcement at West Point Park that are simply not being addressed adequately by our city management.  But the Eno River State Park staff is ready to offer assistance to the citizens of Durham in these matters if we will just relinquish any lingering “turfiness,” and allow the state park rangers to do what they do best - manage the larger tracts of parkland along a major river corridor of statewide significance. 

          Finally, my fellow citizens of Durham, let us not forget to live up to our proud title of “City of Medicine.”  It is more important to secure that claim by the quality of our protected and well maintained natural areas than it is to boast about the number of hospital beds, research labs or pill factories within our city limits. “Nature is but another name for health,”  said the prophet of Walden Pond ...