Modified road plans: The creek (part 2)


“The culvert has not been designed yet so at this time we can only speculate about what size it would be and what it would look like.” – NCDOT project engineer for the N. Highland Lake Road project (from email dated April 16)

On April 13, NCDOT presented a modified plan of the N. Highland Lake Road project (U-5887) to the Flat Rock village council at a special council meeting, held in the new parish hall at St John in the Wilderness.

We’re looking at how that modified plan will affect the road, and here we concentrate on the area of Highland Lake dam and King Creek, which runs north under N. Highland Lake Road.

NCDOT is planning on installing a concrete box culvert in place of the two-pipe system that currently carries the water under the road. An example of a NCDOT box culvert in Henderson County can be seen on Kanuga Road.


With the box culvert and the multiuse path, NCDOT requires a minimum 3.5-foot wall or railing for the safety of bikers and pedestrians. And while NCDOT has said the culvert will have a rock veneer, that can never be the same as the existing rock work from generations past.


The multiuse path will also add significantly to the width of the road as it crosses the creek, separating drivers from the sense of traveling through a rural landscape of gentle streams and enveloping greenery.

There is now a gravel area to the northwest of the creek crossing where one or two cars have room to park if someone wants take a closer look at the Highland Lake dam.


In the modified NCDOT plan above, this space is shown enlarged, thereby making it more inviting for multiple cars, with curb & gutter and a paved surface. Upward Road has such a turn-out area that you can see below. With the multiuse path connecting to The Park at Flat Rock trail system, cars can be parked here 24-hours a day for people to access the park easily.


The actual installation of any culvert will cause ecological damage that can take the area years to recover from. Because installing the culvert will require closing both lanes for a certain amount of time, local businesses and residents will be negatively affected and it is still unclear where the temporary construction easement will be located.

NCDOT did a culvert replacement on Berea Church Road last year. From the photos below, you can see the amount of displacement needed to install a culvert.


The dam and creek area feed into the sense of being in nature that is also evoked in the park. By installing a concrete box culvert, adding 3.5-foot high walls, and providing easy 24/7 park access, that sense of entering a special place will be destroyed.

A blue heron waits for fish at the lower dam. It can take years for the ecological balance to be restored after a culvert installation. 

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