A 613-acre preserve in Orange County
3055 New Hope Church Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
About The George and Julia Brumley Family Nature Preserve
The George and Julia Brumley Family Nature Preserve is located in western Orange County, approximately 2 miles southeast of the town of Hillsborough. In the 1990’s, a subdivision was planned for a section of the property off of New Hope Church Road. George and Julia Brumley were passionate about land conservation and purchased the land to manage it for conservation and for traditional uses like forestry, farming, and hunting. After the Brumleys’ unfortunate passing, the Zeist Foundation sold the property in 2010 to Triangle Land Conservancy. Brumley was purchased with the help of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Warner Foundation, City of Raleigh, Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative, and the Pearson Stewart Land Opportunity Fund established through TLC’s Our Water, Our Land campaign.
The Brumley Nature Preserve is a model for sustainable land management practices. The preserve benefits the region by connecting people with the land through a variety of recreational and educational opportunities, protecting ecological communities, and safeguarding Raleigh’s water supply as part of the Neuse River Basin.
Ecological Restoration at Brumley Nature Preserve
Q: Why do the forests at Brumley need to be restored?
A: Natural areas and well-managed forests support healthy ecosystems and balance our built environment by providing habitat for native plants and animals. Several forest stands at Brumley were planted by the previous owners and are even-aged monocultures of loblolly pine. These areas have little plant biodiversity, support only a limited number of wildlife species, and typically have barren understories colonized only by invasive species, including microstegium, Tree of Heaven, Chinese privet, autumn olive and thorny olive.
These stands have also started to experience density-dependent mortality, which occurs when the biomass (in this case, trees) exceeds the carrying capacity of the site (lack of resources like water, nutrients, and light). Because of this, in the near future, a greater and greater number of trees in these stands will die, which will cause fuel to build up in the forest, increasing the risk of wildfires. Planned management activities have been designed to open the stand to increase biodiversity, improve the habitat for wildlife by supporting more species, and decrease the risk of wildfire.
Historically, loblolly pine would not have been found on upland sites in the Piedmont of North Carolina. The historical range of loblolly is throughout the Coastal Plain and in the bottomlands and floodplains of large rivers in the Piedmont (e.g., the Neuse, Haw, Deep, etc.). TLC’s goal of restoring natural habitats targets a transition away from loblolly dominated stands to hardwood stands and mixed hardwood-pine stands that have a significant component of shortleaf pine.
Q: What are the steps for restoring the forests at Brumley?
A: In 2015, TLC began to remove invasive species throughout the Preserve and in 2016 began thinning activities in a few forest stands. It is especially important to remove invasive plants before thinning to prevent the further spread of these species. Tree planting has also taken place to reforest some of the property’s old fields, and over 2000 native species have been planted in old agricultural fields. Prescribed burning is also a tool that TLC will use to open the understory, reduce the prevalence of some invasive species, encourage native herbaceous species, promote the regeneration of desirable hardwood tree species, and reduce the risk of wildfire. Prescribed burning operations will be an ongoing part of the management at Brumley, most likely beginning in 2017 and continuing yearly in differing sections of the property.
Q: I’m a neighbor. What can I expect to see during the restoration work?
A: Some of the forest restoration work will be visible from roads bordering the property including Old State Highway 10, New Hope Church Road, and Rigsbee Road. For approximately one month, expect to see larger trucks entering and exiting the property. TLC has posted signs at the property’s entrances describing the work being done and listing contact information for anyone with additional questions. After this work, neighbors may occasionally expect to see TLC staff, contractors, and volunteers entering the property to do work. TLC will inform neighbors any time a prescribed burn is scheduled at the property. There may be some smoke associated with a prescribed burn, but the timing of the burn is carefully scheduled to minimize the impact of smoke on neighboring properties by only conducting burns when the wind direction will move smoke away from Smoke Sensitive Areas (e.g., homes). In addition, TLC complies with all air quality regulations through coordination with the NC Forest Service and the EPA.
Q: What will guide the forest restoration and management activities at Brumley?
A: Triangle Land Conservancy creates a Baseline Documentation Report (BDR) for every easement it holds and property it owns, including Brumley. The BDR was created before the property was purchased in 2010 to describe its condition and conservation values. A Forest Stewardship Plan was then prepared by TLC’s Registered Forester Consultant Bruce White. This plan, along with the BDR, county plans, meetings with potential site partners, and input from community members was used to create the Comprehensive Management Plan for Brumley Forest Nature Preserve. The Comprehensive Management Plan was approved by TLC’s volunteer Stewardship Advisory Council in May 2015. A Forest Restoration Plan for Brumley was also prepared by TLC Associate Manager of Stewardship and Registered Forester Matt Rutledge using information from the Brumley Forest Stewardship Plan. The Forest Restoration Plan was approved by TLC’s volunteer Stewardship Advisory Council in May 2015 and by the Board of Directors in June 2015.
Q: Who else is doing this type of forest restoration work?
A: Local examples of other organizations involved in active forest restoration and management include the North Carolina Botanical Garden and the Duke Forest. Statewide examples include the North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Many private landowners also engage in comprehensive land management and forest restoration, often with help from consultants like Unique Places, LLC.
Q: Who will be doing TLC’s restoration work?
A: Triangle Land Conservancy has several Conservation & Stewardship professionals on staff that will oversee and help implement the forest restoration and management activities at Brumley. In addition to these trained staff, TLC has contracted with trained professionals including NC Registered Forester and Society of American Foresters (SAF) Certified Forester Bruce White, who is working with TLC on the forest restoration. It is TLC’s policy to pay consulting foresters like Bruce either an hourly rate or a flat fee rather than by commission. The prescribed burns will be planned in cooperation with the NC Registered Foresters and NC Certified Burners at Wildland Forestry and Environmental, Inc. Other contractors may be hired throughout the restoration work to assist with thinning activities, invasive species removal, tree planting, and trail building. TLC will also depend upon the support of volunteers to accomplish this work. Volunteers will be needed to help remove invasive species, build trails, and assist with prescribed burns.
Q: Where will the restoration work occur?
A: The work will take place in designated areas throughout the Preserve, including the section just north of Old NC 10. The Brumley Forest Management Plan contains information on the specific forest restoration activities and their locations on the property. The Comprehensive Management Plan also contains a trail plan depicting where trails will be built and enhanced.
Q: How long will restoration take?
A: Forest restoration and land management is an ongoing process that will take many years to achieve the goals and objectives described in the Comprehensive Management Plan for Brumley. TLC has begun forest restoration, including invasive removal, thinning, and prescribed burning as well as trail building in preparation for opening the Preserve in the Spring of 2017. Young pine stands that are currently being thinned will probably need future thinnings in order to achieve the transition to a mixed hardwood forest.
Once started, the forest thinning will take approximately two to three weeks depending on the weather (rain will delay work). Prescribed burns will continue yearly in differing areas with most stands on a four to seven year rotation. This schedule will allow individual stands to be burnt only when needed and it will create a diversity of habitats for wildlife throughout the preserve.
TLC plans to have most trails on the northern and southern sides of property completed by April 2017. Work to complete and upgrade trails will continue after the opening, depending on funding. Other management work, such as more invasive species removal, will also be ongoing and depend upon funding.
Q: What work is specifically being done to open the preserve to the public?
A: In addition to building and enhancing the 15 miles of hiking, running and mountain biking trails, TLC received a grant from the Duke Water Resources Fund to create a water education hub featuring a trail around the property’s pond with interpretative materials about aquatic ecology and the link between the property’s streams and clean drinking water. This grant also funded an upgrade to the small dock and a boardwalk overlooking a beaver dam as well as restoring a small pond side gazebo. Elsewhere on the property, TLC is working with trained professionals to stabilize or remove historic structures like silos and remnants of the former Craig Manor.
Q: How much will the forest restoration and management activities cost?
A: The Comprehensive Management Plan estimates the minimum amount of funding needed to open Brumley to the public at $1.8 million. This includes the forest restoration and management activities described above as well as ongoing costs and the need for an endowment to fund necessary stewardship in perpetuity.
Approximate costs include $160,000 for trail building, $34,000 for new infrastructure like bridges and a parking lot, $50,000 for infrastructure stabilization, $4,000 for ecological restoration (tree planting), and $2,000 a year for prescribed burns and invasive control. The thinning activities will pay for themselves and any extra income will be dedicated to other stewardship activities at Brumley.
Q: Who is paying for the restoration work?
A: As a nonprofit, Triangle Land Conservancy depends upon the generosity of individuals, businesses, organizations, foundations, and governments to achieve our mission of improving lives through conservation. Specifically for the work at Brumley, TLC has received grants from the Martin Marietta, Wells Fargo, Duke Water Resources Fund, Johnson Subaru, REI, and the Recreational Trails Program. TLC has applied for additional grants and is also seeking corporate and individual donations specifically for the work at Brumley. Any money made from the thinning activities will be used specifically for stewardship activities at Brumley. We also have a partnership with Triangle Off-Road Cyclists, a volunteer group that advocates for and supports mountain bikers. They have pledged both financial and volunteer support for trail building and will help monitor the trails once the preserve is open.
Q: Can I get involved in the restoration work?
A: Yes! Consider joining TLC’s Conservation Corps and/or Trail Crew. Both groups assist with stewardship of TLC properties by providing many types of physical support in the field. Their projects are varied and interesting, and include building kiosks, removing invasive plant species, building and maintaining trails, cleaning up streams, and helping with prescribed burns.
If you’d like to receive e-mail announcements of upcoming trail workdays and other projects, sign up at www.triangleland.org/what-can-you-do/page/volunteer-sign-up. If you would like to provide financial support for the restoration work at Brumley or for TLC in general, visit www.triangleland.org/donate.
Q: How can I learn more about forest restoration?
A: Check out these websites:
- North Carolina Forest Service
- North Carolina Prescribed Fire Council
- The Nature Conservancy – Restoring America’s Forests
- “Management Practices to Support Increased Biodiversity in Managed Loblolly Pine Plantations” University of Florida Publication