Raleigh Could Reclassify Some Parks as Preserves

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Instead of riding your bike to the Lake Johnson Park, you might soon be riding to the Lake Johnson Nature Preserve.

It’s one of four city parks that could be reclassified as nature preserves under new city guidelines. The designation will give the parks more protection, but won’t change how residents can enjoy those areas.

City Councilors requested the change in 2009 after nature parks and preserves were added to the city’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

At this week’s city council meeting, The Nature Preserve Task Force, suggested four parks to be reclassified as nature preserves: Durant Nature Park, Horseshoe Farm Park, Annie Louise Wilkerson, M.D. Nature Preserve Park, and the southern portion of Lake Johnson Park.

Anderson Point Park is suggested for redesignation as a protected natural area.

Task Force Chair Toddi Steelman explained the difference between a nature preserve and a protected natural area:  “The only difference between how those two things are applied is really the scope and scale of the property in question,” he said. “A nature preserve would be a larger scale in scope.” 

“Protected Natural Areas should be identified as part of an inventory process based on the natural resources, buffers, educational opportunities, and consistency with adopted master plans,” the report said.

The report said these five parks “contain examples of high quality plant or animal populations, natural communities, landscapes or ecosystems, documented by subject matter experts through local or state programs, that contribute to biodiversity and environmental health.”

The report states the size of the area should be enough to “buffer, conserve and protect” it.

Although the parks are being reclassified, the public will still be able to access these areas.

“When we develop management plans and stewardship plans, we might reroute or relocate around sensitive species or sensitive habitats, but there would be no restrictions different from publicly managed open-space areas,” Steelman said.

The task force developed 13 criteria to identify properties for both classifications. They include criteria for environmental and open-space features as well as stewardship and management.

But Steelman said not all of the criteria have to be met in order for an area to be classified.

“It’s not something where only one has to be met,” he said. “It really is this combination of evaluating the scientific criteria against professional judgment of the people we have assembled to make these decisions.”

The task force is considering other parks for reclassification.

Councilors listened to the report, but did not make decisions. The council will consider the proposal in July.

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