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Walking the walk for the Eno 

Walking through the 815-acre potential addition to the Eno River State Park can be a bit of a struggle.

Weeds, nourished by the area's heavy rains, have grown waist-high. The clay soil has turned muddy from the recent downpours. Fallen chestnut oak tress and small, intermittent streams break up the undeveloped trails, and anyone dumb enough to walk the woods in shorts will be pulling ticks for some time.

So those in search of a romantically Disney-esque, manicured celebration of nature should look elsewhere. Save for architectural remains of 18th century settlers, the land is untouched by development.

But then of course, that's the point--and why the Eno River Association offered a press tour of the site last week. The association is raising money to help the state purchase the tract, commonly referred to as the Eno Wilderness. Owned by Orange County's DuBose family, the area is one of the largest undeveloped swaths of Orange County. Its acquisition would increase the state park's size by roughly a third, protecting nearly 5,000 acres of the Eno River watershed.

Aside from allowing creation of a horse trail that's been planned for years, the land's purchase also would help protect the quality of drinking water for Raleigh and surrounding areas and a wildlife habitat for the area's less domesticated animals.

The only thing the association needs is money, and they need it quickly. An agreement with the DuBose family gives the association until Dec. 31 to ante up the roughly $7 million price tag; as of 2004 the family will make the tract available to more commercially minded buyers.

About half the $7 million has been raised, as state and federal agencies--N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, the U.S. Land & Water Conservation Trust Fund and others--have pulled together to help fund the project. Grants have been applied for with other agencies, including the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, that if approved will raise the rest of the money.

So now, the association is pushing the General Assembly to approve funding for those agencies so the grants can go through--not an easy task in yet another year of statewide budget trouble. If you want to make sure they get it, contact your state legislators; you can look them up at www.ncga.state.nc.us/GIS/Representation/.

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