Environmental Stewardship

  • Protect our environment through planned growth, conservation, preservation, enhancement and restoration of our natural and built resources


  1. Increase energy efficiency
  2. Increase use of environmentally preferred transportation options
  3. Improve water quality
  4. Change behaviors to achieve environmental quality
  5. Protect open space and preserve rural character
InitiativeWhat Has Happened in FY2013-2014What's Next
FOCUS INITIATIVE: Charge Ahead Durham (City-County initiative)
This past year we completed website development and launched Charge Ahead Durham in April.  By the end of the fiscal year, participants had collectively made changes that will save over 408,000 kWh of energy, save 194,000 gallons of water, reduce 16,000 lbs of waste, spent 455 hours in nature, and reduce over 351,000 lbs of CO2.
We will complete Charge Ahead Durham in the fall and award grand prizes.  Staff will review the challenges and opportunities of Charge Ahead Durham and plan for a future re-release with improvements to the program.

FOCUS INITIATIVE: Trees Across Durham (City-County initiative)
This past year we brought together several city and county departments, Durham Public Schools, and many community partners to create Trees Across Durham.  We planted over 1,000 trees, including about 400 at 29 elementary schools.  Over their lifetimes, these trees will absorb about 1 million pounds of carbon and thousands of pounds of air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter.  We also trained 28 people as “Tree Keepers” who can help care for Durham’s trees.
We will plant another 1,000 trees at public middle schools, parks, along roads and other public areas.  We will implement a coordinated cankerworm prevention program involving citizens, neighborhood associations, city and county employees, and Duke University.  We will also launch a tree recognition program to draw attention to the wonderful trees we have in Durham.

Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Program
A VNRP outreach campaign has been developed and is being utilized by County staff to education homeowners on lawn and fertilizer management. A online sign up has been created and posted to the SWCD webpage for easy access.
A short informational video about the VNRP program has been developed and will be posted to various County Social Media sites and shared with community groups when it is finalized.

Create recommendations for improving infrastructure at future transit station locations
Completed existing conditions reports for all Phase 1 urban station areas (Alston, Dillard, Downtown, Buchanan, Ninth, Medical Center and LaSalle). Analyzed opportunities and barriers for connectivity to future light rail stations in the Phase 1 urban station areas. Developed inventory of future infrastructure projects in Phase 1 urban station areas. Provided updates to the Joint City-County Planning Committee and the City-County Planning Commission.
Prioritization for Phase 1 urban station areas. Analysis of existing conditions for Phase 2 suburban station areas (South Square/MLK, Patterson Place, Leigh Village, North RTP, Triangle Metro Center). Community outreach and education on the SASI project and input on prioritization.  Research on possible funding methods for infrastructure improvements.

Sandy Creek Stream Restoration, Phase V
Construction is underway on the fifth and final phase of Upper Sandy Creek stream restoration project. Construction on approximately two-thirds of the 3150-foot project has been completed.
Construction on the project will be completed and planting of the buffer area on site will begin in March and conclude the project.

Create and market a central website of available energy conservation and other environmental resources for businesses
We gathered information about resources to help businesses reduce their environmental impact and designed the website.
We will launch and promote the website.

Complete construction of energy and water efficiency measures through Performance Contracting
This past year we completed construction on all energy and water saving measures and began to see real savings. Estimates so far show we should save about 3 million kWh of electricity, 140,000 therms of natural gas, and 5 million gallons of water per year due to these retrofits.  That results in about $340,000 in avoided utility costs for the county.
In FY15 we will continue to monitor our energy and water savings to make sure we are meeting our targets. (To be honest, I think this initiative should now go to the “complete” section so we don’t keep reporting on it.  Though our graphs will look great as we track the savings over time, so maybe it should stay).  There won’t be any more real activity on this, other than monitoring.

Acquire 100-300 acres of open space in eastern Durham County to help protect the Falls Lake watershed
On November 11, 2013, the Board of County Commissioners approved the 134-acre Southview City County park partnership in eastern Durham County. This property, which backs up to lands owned for Falls Lake, will include a central 30 acre future city park, surrounded by 104 acres of permanently protected open space the County will own and manage.  The City acquired the overall property in December 2013.
Durham County will acquire its portion from the City after the two bodies have formalized the partnership with an Interlocal Agreement, anticipated for fall 2014.

Begin construction of the Hollow Rock access area and bridges to enable this environmentally significant location to be opened to the public and used for environmental education purposes
In December 2013, the County was awarded a $200,000 trails grant by the state of North Carolina, which will pay for majority of the parking lot and pedestrian bridge costs for this Durham-Orange partnership project.
Design work on the bridges was underway in June 2014 and construction is anticipated to follow in the fall /winter 2014.

Bionomic Educational Training Center (BETC) at Southern High School
The Experiment Station lab has been completed with a series of experiments that can be used by all students enrolled in AP Environmental Science and Biology. The lab focuses on water quality concerns and conservation using research techniques, data collection and analysis. The project also provided for solar panels for plant grow lights and a Smart Controller upgrade to the irrigation system on five athletic fields for Southern High School. The new controller and weather monitoring station system will save an estimated 20% to 50% of the current potable water usage that DPS uses, approximately  $15,000 a year on average for the irrigation of the five fields.
The expansion of the agribusiness will continue with partnerships with other community groups, such as Master Gardeners and Trees Across Durham (TAD), a Durham County Strategic Plan Initiative. The TAD-BETC partnership involves a contract for growing trees for TAD. These trees will be installed to prevent erosion on other campuses in the school system each fall. The BETC program will continue to grow and sell plants for rain gardens and will continue to install rain gardens in the community. The program’s goal is to install 10 rain gardens per year with a potential gross income of $5000.

Durham Educator’s Guide to the Environment website
A comprehensive list of resources and programs in environmental education was compiled for Durham County teachers. The list was converted into a website that would be easy to share, maintain and update. Outreach about the new website began. Teachers and educators can access the page at bit.ly/GuidetotheEnvironment
Periodic updates to the website will be performed to keep it up to date and relevant. Continued marketing and outreach about the site will take place.