Crews working to reshape Willowbrook Creek in Burlington; plans to transform Willowbrook Park

BURLINGTON, N.C. -- The powerful pulsating sounds of a jack hammer are replacing the screams of joy you normally hear at Burlington's Willowbrook Park. Crews with the City of Burlington are moving playground equipment and swings out of the way so contractors can begin their project. Burlington Water Resources Director Bob Patterson describes why the contractor's work is so important.

"The stream bank gets close to East Willowbrook Drive and if let unchecked, it could undermine the street," Patterson said. "We want to do the work before it got to that point."

Brown Branch, also known as Willowbrook Creek, winds through Willowbrook Park. As the creek travels through the park, it is eroding the banks. In sections the stream is getting closer to East Willowbrook Drive. In others the bank is crumbling, sending dirt and other pollutants into the water. Eventually some of the debris could end up in Jordan Lake, which is a water source for Piedmont cities and towns.

"So we want to do our part to maintain and provide the best water quality to support aquatic life and drinking water supplies," Patterson said.

Contractors will go into Willowbrook Park and reshape the stream banks and plant native trees and plants. The work will slow erosion and improve water quality. Brown Branch will no longer threaten East Willowbrook Drive because contractors will move the stream away from the road. Patterson adds the restoration process will also provide living space for insects.

"If you want to buy a house, you look at several locations and pick one you like," Patterson said. "The insects will pick natural areas that are suitable for them."

The stream restoration will cost Burlington nearly $400,000. The project should be completed in the summer. But it's the next project that has Patterson really excited.

"It's really an exciting project," said Patterson. "It's nothing we had in our community."

The nonprofit group, New Leaf Society, will begin transforming Willowbrook Park into the Burlington Arboretum at Willowbrook Park. A children's garden, commons building and a veterans memorial will be some of the key features.

Alex Peavy enjoys bringing his young son Winston to Willowbrook Park. Peavy can't wait to see how the park will look when all the work is done.

"We are excited about what they are going to build here in the arboretum," Peavy said. "It's going to be nice to see what they are going to do."