On May 23, just in time for summer, the new Hollow Rock nature park opened on Erwin Road. The park is located near Hollow Rock Racquet & Swim Club and includes a myriad of hiking trails that border both New Hope Creek and Duke Forest.
Some trails connect to Duke Forest and border the tranquil, bubbling New Hope Creek, while hikers can also choose to remain in the preserve itself, where trails intersect with the creek as well. The park is well shaded along the trails, aside from the occasional meadow, and wildlife is abundant.
The park is accessible by parking located at 629 Erwin Road, between Chapel Hill and Durham. Pets must remain on leashes, per a notice at the entrance. The terrain is mostly flat and offers easy footing for children, although strollers could encounter more trouble.
Plans of turning the land into a nature preserve with low-impact activities available to the public have been in the work for decades. In 1989, the New Hope Corridor Advisory Committee began planning to preserve the land, and in 2007, the Hollow Rock Park Committee began work on the park. The committee was comprised of members from Orange and Durham counties and the towns of Chapel Hill and Durham, all of whom were dedicated to developing the park.
“I am more than pleased at how the park turned out,” said Gail Boyarsky, an Orange County committee member. “It is just amazing to see, almost 30 years later. I wish that all the members of the original committee were here to see it.”
Although its peaceful setting would beg to differ, the land the park is located on has long been a hub of human activity. Native Americans traversed the land before European settlers arrived, and it became a major crossroads along the trading route that would become Erwin Road. The Patterson Mill was eventually built along New Hope Creek, making the area a center of production, and the former Hollow Rock store served as a gathering place.
Because of the land’s rich natural and cultural history, many committee members hoped to incorporate educational and recreational elements for the park.
“[In 1989], the Hollow Rock Country Store, run by Stan and Sue Whitfield, was still operating on Erwin Road, right next to the creek. It was a gathering place for many in the community, and some used it as a place to park for walking in Duke Forest. It was a natural spot [for the nature park],” explained Boyarsky. “Many people want to see the original Hollow Rock store returned and used as a museum and information station. There are quite a few artifacts from the community still available, including signs from the old store and farm equipment.”
The park is open every day from 8 a.m. to dusk. Behaviors that would disturb the natural habitat are prohibited, such as hunting, trapping, removing wildlife, and collecting or burning firewood.