The Creek Project Begins

January 27, 2021

Creek rendering from the Dix Park Master Plan

Creating a waterfront for Raleigh

The creek project seeks to create a beautiful, inviting place where visitors can hear the babbling of the stream and chirping of birds, and kids can learn about tadpoles becoming frogs – a real escape to nature in the heart of the city.

The Rocky Branch, which runs along the northern border of Dix Park, has been displaced and polluted over time with development, roadways and the placement of a landfill in its natural wetland. Without its wide floodplain and native plants at its banks, the creek has become unhealthy, inaccessible, and empty of wildlife. During the master planning process, we heard from people that they desired connections to water in the future of the park, with a place to get up close to natural water features. 

The Dix Park Master Plan sets the goals of both enhancing and restoring this creek by reestablishing its meandering path, widening the floodplain, removing invasive species, and stabilizing the banks with native plants. The Master Plan proposes a system of stormwater catchment ponds, hillside seeps, and pervious parking gardens to manage runoff and naturally filter out pollutants while creating wetland habitat to bring back wildlife. The creek, along with the planned nature and ecology center, will provide both indoor and outdoor classroom experiences for environmentally focused education, cultural and natural history tours, and other programs. Imagine birdwatching, strolling along the banks, jumping across on steppingstones, and even an area for sailing toy boats at a broadened meander. These activities will offer a deep experience of nature in the middle of a growing city.  The greenway trail along the creek will be used for both recreation and transportation purposes, connecting the park to other key destinations such as Downtown, North Carolina Museum of Art, NC State University, and Pullen Park. 

The prominence of a restored Rocky Branch within Dorothea Dix Park will reach far beyond the Raleigh and Wake County. This project will serve regional visitors by providing environmental, aesthetic, recreational, educational, and social benefits. It will be a critical place of nature, education and respite as the Triangle continues to grow.

First steps in restoring the Rocky Branch

As a major Phase 1 project, the City of Raleigh will manage the creek project, which includes the selection of a multi-disciplinary consultant team for the planning and design work. To fund this work on the Rocky Branch restoration project, the City and Dix Park Conservancy collectively applied for, and were awarded, four grants. 

  • Grants submitted through the City: Water Resource Development Grant, offered through the State Division of Water Resources; and Land and Water Fund Grant.
  • Grants submitted through the Conservancy: NC Environmental Enhancement Grant, offered through the NC Attorney General’s Office; and Duke Energy Foundation Powerful Communities: Nature Grant.  

The consultant search is currently underway with proposals due mid-February. Once selected, the consultant team will begin with a detailed investigation of the creek and adjacent landfill conditions. Data collected will identify use options for creek alignment and remediated landfill area, green stormwater infrastructure opportunities, and potential impacts and benefits on the watershed at large. The outcome of this 18-month project will be three restoration alternatives for the creek – guided by review of the stream and soil assessment data and the Dix Park Master Plan.