Bridging the Gap at Swift Creek Bluffs

October 14, 2023

By Cara Lewis, Senior Communications Manager

Land Stewardship Associate (East) Umar Muhammad with Engineers Without Borders volunteers. Photo: TLC Staff

Often described as an urban oasis, Swift Creek Bluffs Nature Preserve is a hidden gem inside the rapidly growing Triangle metropolis of Cary, NC. One of TLC’s smallest preserves, this precious and protected space is bound by housing developments, a golf course, and the increasingly busy Holly Springs Road. 

For those in the know, Swift Creek Bluffs is worth the search. The trails follow the banks of Swift Creek before climbing a steep bluff and continuing through a unique basic mesic forest that contains a variety of rare plants. Appreciated by nature lovers and conservationists alike, Swift Creek is also a coveted destination for those looking for a quick cardio workout in the great outdoors. The infamous Stairway to Heaven gets the heart rate up while allowing you to breathe fresh air and soak up the benefits of exercising and being in nature.  

The previous bridge at SCB. Photo: TLC Staff

A portion of Beech Bluffs Loop trail has been closed for several months to replace the boardwalk bridge that was in poor condition after years of use. Thanks to the volunteers from Engineers Without Borders (USA RTP Chapter) and long-time volunteer and donor Mark Jolly, a new 50-foot long bridge was recently completed and built to last for another 15 years.

A retired engineer, Jolly is an outstanding volunteer who has worked closely with Umar Muhammad, the Land Steward Associate for our eastern owned properties, to design and manage the construction of a new bridge.

“We’ve been working with Umar on this bridge replacement project,” said Jolly. “This area is a dry creek bed that fills up once or twice a year during which debris can pile up and ultimately become a hazard. Partnering with TLC, we designed the new bridge to allow for rising and receding creek level.” 

Signing off the completed bridge. Photo: TLC Staff

As a finishing touch, the team also added a branded support piece to leave their mark. Volunteers are crucial to what we do at TLC and in total have contributed close to 3,000 hours of volunteer time to our organization in fiscal year 2023. We are grateful to Mark and the team at the RTP chapter of Engineers Without Borders for creating a safe, long-lasting footbridge at Swift Creek Bluffs Nature Preserve.

Celebrating the New Bridge and Commemorating the Wild Peace

Photo: TLC Staff

TLC will be hosting a special gathering next month to celebrate the reopening of the boardwalk and take time to read and reflect on the beautiful poem call Wild Peace. Engraved on a plaque beside the bridge, this poem was written by the late Ross Andrews, a local environmentalist who wrote it about his mother who welcomed like-minded folks to Swift Creek for many years.

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