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Ribbonwalk: An Excercise We Could Learn From
(from the Charlotte Observer, Michelle Crouch, staff reporter)

Paul Eich is executive director of RibbonWalk forest, which opened a new trail over the weekend. A developer wanted to build 94 homes on the trail's site last year, but RibbonWalk supporters fought him and won. Eich spoke with reporter Michelle Crouch.

Q. Why was it important for this property to become part of RibbonWalk and not be developed with homes?

First of all, it's open space, and it's good to preserve that. Second, it's very sloped, and we feared the houses would cause erosion and ecology issues. Third, the site is uphill from a stream that goes by our oldest grove of beech trees. If the sewer pumping system failed, it would dump sewage into the stream and damage that very fragile ecology.

Q. How did you persuade the Charlotte City Council to vote against the development?

The council not only voted against it, they voted unanimously against it, which is almost unheard of. We gave them good reasons to fight it. And we tried very hard not to just yell and scream, the way others sometimes do.

Q. Do you have other advice for citizens fighting rezonings?

We had constant contact with the council members. We never got into name-calling. And we never tried to hoo-doo anyone. We always presented just the facts, and the facts were on our side. We also presented photos. Anyone can talk abstractly in the council chambers. We showed them pictures of the lake, of the beech tree grove, of the stream where the sewage could drain.

Q. How did the land become part of RibbonWalk?

It started with our angel -- Mike North (chairman of Myers & Chapman, a Charlotte construction firm). He offered to buy the property with his retirement money. Mecklenburg County promised to buy the property from him when it had the money, in a few years. ...Then, the night of the vote on the contract, (the county commissioners) magically found $400,000 in the budget and bought it directly.

Q. Tell us about the new trail and how it enhances the forest.

It's actually a series of trails that are interconnecting, so there is not just one path you wear out.

RibbonWalk is not like just hiking around a ball field. Every season and every time of day looks a little different.

About RibbonWalk

RibbonWalk urban forest, located at 4601 Nevin Road in north Charlotte, is open from 9 a.m. to dusk every day. For more information, call (704) 599-2600 or visit

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