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Signs of life

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If you traverse Erwin Road as it winds its way through the suburban and occasionally bucolic countryside just north of the hot concrete of U.S. 15-501, you might have noticed a few sets of simple green and white signs along the side of the road near the Orange/Durham line.

In Burma Shave style, they read Save-This-Land.

Done.

In the grand scheme of things, the hundred or so acres set aside last week by the governments of Orange and Durham counties, the City of Durham and the Town of Chapel Hill won't stop the juggernaut of growth in the eastern Orange/western Durham corridor. What it will do is shape that growth, steering it away from an area long sought by conservationists. The move allows for park and preservation to take root instead of more houses.

Whether you wish to call coming up with the cash for 43 acres and the subsequent placing of roughly 60 more acres in conservation part of a smart-growth strategy or not, it certainly was an intelligent move on the part of the governments, the Triangle Land Conservancy and Duke University to work together to cut the deal.

Though the negotiations were a bit awkward at times, seeing some mutually beneficial regional planning was refreshing and, we hope, the beginning of a trend.

The folks who should really take a bow on this one are the citizens near the parcel in the Erwin Area Neighborhood Group who rallied to keep it from being developed, and Carolyn and Wade Penny, the neighbors who placed adjacent acreage they owned in a conservation easement. More land owned by the Pennys and Duke also will be folded into the deal.

Most of the time, crafting environmentally sound public policy at the local level is a mundane and technical enterprise--setting slope and impervious surface requirements, modifying runoff and siltation rules, etc. That makes it hard to determine clear wins and losses. But being able to take a stroll on a sizeable parcel that's likely never to see a backhoe is a victory we all can savor.

April 22, by the way, is Earth Day. If you're looking for a reminder that the environmental movement is still alive and kicking, we suggest heading up to Erwin Road. The signs are there.

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