Erosion forces temporary closure of Third Fork Creek Trail sections

Jul. 22, 2013 @ 01:59 PM

Durham’s trails are frequently mentioned as one of the city’s top attractions, with nearly three of four residents rating city greenway trails very highly.  That’s one reason why the city is as disappointed as most of its users to be forced to close sections of the Third Fork Creek Trail due to ongoing erosion that worsened during recent heavy rains.

Known for their scenic beauty, Durham trails are often near streams where recreational use is highest, but also it’s a great use of flood plain land and protects riparian areas from other development.  While some erosion is anticipated in active flood plains like this, the main channel flow of Third Fork Creek has shifted more than anticipated. This has caused erosion that has seriously damaged the section of the trail between Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Spreading Oak Court making it dangerous for users.   It is also affecting the two sewer lines that are adjacent to the trail.

While the southern half of the trail can still be used, the four access points between MLK Parkway and Cardinal Drive are closed for safety reasons.  This entire section of trail has been closed to minimize risk to trail users. 

For example, users who access the trail southbound at MLK Parkway would have to get off the trail at the Courtland Drive access and would then have no route to continue south except by walking or riding on Hope Valley Road’s very narrow shoulders.  Users coming north from Cardinal Drive would have to turn around and have a long walk or ride back to Cardinal.  They, too, would have to use Hope Valley Road.  Given those options, many users would likely opt to continue across the damaged section — taking a dangerous risk.

Our goal is to begin emergency work on the trail as soon as possible and complete repairs on the damaged section of the Third Fork Creek bank by late October, weather permitting.  At that point, the trail could be reopened.  However, a more permanent repair would involve returning the majority of stream flow to the main channel of Third Fork Creek -- a much more complicated and costly proposal, requiring environmental permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the N.C. Division of Water Quality.

In the meantime, the city appreciates your patience and invites you to take time to get to know Durham’s other trails.  For more information about other trails and repair plans for Third Fork Creek Trail, go to, call 919-560-4355 or email Rosetta Radtke at

Rosetta Radtke is  senior parks planner for the City of Durham.