Massey Chapel Nature Park

Supporting conservation and outdoor recreation along the American Tobacco Trail in Durham NC

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SAVING A COMMUNITY SPACE WITH A POWERFUL HISTORY

We are working with the Carlton family, local landowners, the City of Durham, and other stakeholders to conserve a portion of the American Tobacco Trail. Originally purchased by an emancipated slave and passed down through the Carlton family for generations, we are proud to be a part of preserving and sharing an important chapter of local history.

The Massey Chapel Nature Park presents an exciting opportunity to blend history, environmental conservation, and public access. The site will offer a unique educational experience for visitors and serve as a natural retreat in a predominantly developed area. It aims to strike a balance between conservation and public use, ensuring the long-term sustainability and enjoyment of this unique place.

20

Total Number of Acres Protected

1

Miles of New Trailways To Be Created

1

Family History To Be Preserved

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CONSERVE

The Massey Chapel Nature Park will stand out amidst the rapidly surrounding area. Over 700 residents are on record against the high-density development of the property. The preservation and interpretation of the property's history offer a refreshing contrast to the highly-developed environment of the surrounding area, providing a valuable natural outdoor experience that is increasingly rare in such urban regions.

This project will protect over 4,100 linear feet of vegetated areas along streams, known as riparian buffers. The streams protected on this property feed water into Jordan Lake, which is an important water source for about a million residents. 

Riparian buffers are critical areas to protect because they help maintain water quality, absorb and filter excessive stormwater, prevent erosion, provide wildlife habitat, and support biodiversity. By conserving riparian buffers at the Massey Chapel Nature Park with a state-held conservation easement, we will protect these important resources while still supporting public access and use.

The 20-acre project site will be protected primarily through a conservation agreement that allows uses that support outdoor recreation or environmental benefit. This project will help directly protect the land around 0.25 miles of the American Tobacco Trail in southwest Durham NC while creating one mile of new trailways through the park.

habitat
Healthy Habitats

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Long-Term Management

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RESTORE

This project will protect over 4,100 linear feet of vegetated areas along streams, known as riparian buffers. The streams protected on this property feed water into Jordan Lake, which is an important water source for about a million residents. 

Riparian buffers are critical areas to protect because they help maintain water quality, absorb and filter excessive stormwater, prevent erosion, provide wildlife habitat, and support biodiversity. By conserving riparian buffers at the Massey Chapel Nature Park with a state-held conservation easement, we will protect these important resources while still supporting public access and use.

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Watershed
Protection

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Drinking Water Quality

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ACCESS

The Massey Chapel Nature Park provides an exciting opportunity for the interpretation of the history of an emancipated family. We will work with the family to share their story so visitors can learn about the experiences and contributions of this family to the surrounding community.

We intend to enhance the existing public access and expand nature-based recreation at the Massey Chapel property with low-impact improvements that also enhance safety. The planned improvements include building natural surface trails, potential covered picnic shelter(s), benches, trail/interpretive signs, and an information kiosk.

These improvements will provide the opportunity for increased community engagement, enabling residents and visitors to enjoy the natural beauty and historical significance of the site.

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Hiking

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Picnic Shelters

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Interpretive Signs

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Project Gallery

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carlton family nature park at massey chapel durham ncThe Massey Chapel Property

This project encompasses 20 acres between Massey Chapel Road and Renaissance Parkway along the American Tobacco Trail in Durham NC. The threat of development inspired a neighbor to step up as anchor donor and secure the land for the long-term use by everyone in the community. 

This project will protect over 4,100 linear feet of vegetated areas along streams, known as riparian buffers. The streams protected by the Massey Chapel property feed water into Jordan Lake, which is an important water source for about a million residents. 

This land was purchased by a freed slave, Harvey Carlton, in 1878. Harvey’s family (he and Annie had 8 children) farmed this property until about 1943. After that, the land passed through a succession of owners and in 1972 was sold to the Whitfields. In February of 2023, Unique Places to Save purchased the land with the intent to preserve the legacy and beauty of this land with a nature park open to the public. 

Over 700 residents are on record against the high-density development of the property. Its preservation and interpretation of history offer a refreshing contrast to the dominant built environment in the area, providing a valuable natural outdoor experience that is increasingly rare in such developed regions.

Specifically, this project proposes to:

  • Provide ongoing education about the legacy of Harvey Carlton and the historical importance of his life

  • Conserve a total of approximately 0.25 miles of land around the American Tobacco Trail

  • Prevent development on 20 acres of land around an open public space

  • Incorporate educational signage about local natural and cultural history

  • Preserve a location for a public access to nature in an urban environment

  • Planned improvements include a parking area, potential covered picnic shelter(s), benches, trail/interpretive signs, an information kiosk, and natural surface trail(s)

Project Partners
  • The Carlton Family
  • City of Durham NC
  • Durham Parks & Recreation
  • Durham County NC
  • East Coast Greenways
  • NC Land and Water Fund

The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the project partners and their funding sources. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by them or their funding sources. 

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