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Alice speaking at the 2009 Environmental Summit
Alice speaking at the 2009 Environmental Summit

Alice Gordon       As an Orange County Commissioner since 1990, Alice Gordon has been a consistent champion of the environment during her entire tenure as a county commissioner, voting for measures to protect watersheds, to fund studies of the county's ground water, to promote recycling, and to protect the rural buffer near Chapel Hill and Carrboro, to name some examples. Her votes are dependably on the side of protecting the environment. In recognition of her record, she has been endorsed by the Sierra Club in all five of her previous campaigns for commissioner (1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006). She was also proud and honored to receive the Sierra Club endorsement in 2010.

     If elected to another term, she will provide continuity and continued leadership on environmental matters. This is particularly important because of the recent turnover on the Board of County Commissioners. Three new members were elected two years ago, and one incumbent chose not to run this time. Thus Alice's presence on the board as a dedicated leader for the environment is even more important. Her leadership on environmental issues is described below.

Environmental Protection

Blackwood Farm
As part of the Lands Legacy Program, Orange County purchased the
Blackwood Farm for conservation and future education/recreation purposes

      Alice Gordon's most important legacy as an environmental leader will be her initiatives to institutionalize environmental protection as an integral part of Orange County government. When she first became a county commissioner, environmental concerns were dealt with as part of the overall planning function of the Planning Department. Now, thanks to her leadership on the issues detailed below, environmental protection has its own special place in county government.

     Alice's service as a commissioner includes the following initiatives to make environmental protection a significant function of Orange County government:
  • Proposed the creation of the the Water Resources Committee.
  • Proposed the creation of the Commission for the Environment.
  • Proposed the creation of the Environment and Resource Conservation Department (ERCD), the county department dedicated to dealing with environmental issues. (The name of this department was changed in April 2010 to Environment, Agriculture, Parks and Recreation.)
  • Proposed the creation of the county's comprehensive land preservation program, the nationally recognized "Lands Legacy Program."
     Alice saw the need for and proposed the creation of these two advisory groups, as well as the ERCD and Lands Legacy Program, because of her firm commitment to strengthen the county's focus on environmental protection. All of these innovative proposals met initial resistance, either from the staff or some of the commissioners, so it required considerable effort and persuasion to make them a reality. That was particularly true for the establishment of the new environmental department and its associated Lands Legacy Program.

Orange County joins the Clean Cities Coalition
Orange County joins the Clean Cities Coalition

     The new environmental department (ERCD) was proposed by Alice in a memorandum dated May 25, 1998, and the establishment of the ERCD was approved by the commissioners in a 3 to 2 vote on June 22, 1998. Concerning the Lands Legacy Program, there is a second memorandum written by Alice on May 25, 1998 which proposed a "Comprehensive Resource Conservation Program" to preserve our natural resources, such as forests, and also farmland, historic sites, and other significant resources. To devise and implement this program was one of the first tasks that Alice proposed for the new environmental department. The creation of this program, later named "Lands Legacy," was approved by the commissioners when they approved the establishment of the ERCD in that same 3-2 vote on June 22, 1998.

     Alice has also served as a member and/or commissioner liaison for the Water Resources Committee and the Commission for the Environment, and she is a member of the multi-jurisdictional climate change committee.

     A. The Water Resources Committee was established in 1992 to go beyond the county's good work in protecting watersheds and expand it to include an emphasis on ground water as well. As a result of studies completed in cooperation with the USGS, the county now has valuable information concerning ground water availability and quality in Orange County.

     Alice was far-sighted in advocating for these studies of our ground water supplies, well before there was any crisis (like a drought), to help us plan for our long-term water needs.

     She is also an advocate for the complete implementation of the Water Resources Initiative, to protect and more responsibly utilize the county's water supplies..

     B. The Commission for the Environment was established in 1997 to advise the commissioners on environmental matters such as air quality and biological resources and other natural resources. As a result, the commissioners for the first time had a group to provide advice on air quality, for example, and for the first time the county produced a State of the Environment report. In addition, the county now hosts an Environmental Summit.

     In recognition of her contributions, the Commission for the Environment dedicated the 2004 State of the Environment Report to Commissioner Alice Gordon. The citation in the Acknowledgements section of the report is shown below:

Orange County State of the Environment 2004 Report
Click to enlarge the images above

     Alice participated in the most recent Environmental Summit, held in September 2009. One focus of the summit was the 2009 State of the Environment Report, which described the current status of Orange County's natural environment and provided measures to monitor and evaluate progress toward a cleaner, healthier environment.

     C. The Environment and Resource Conservation Department (ERCD) was established as a new department in 1998 and began operations in January 1999, during the early part of Alice's term as chair of the Board of County Commissioners. As a result, the county now has the expertise and the staff to evaluate resources and to buy land and conservation easements.

Little River Park
Orange County purchased Little River Park, in cooperation with its regional partners, as part of the Lands Legacy Program. In 2007 Lands Legacy won the national Excellence in County Planning Award.

     D. The Lands Legacy Program, authorized in April 2000, is the first comprehensive county land acquisition program in North Carolina. The program tries to acquire or otherwise protect the county's most critical natural and cultural resources before they are lost.

     After ten years of operating the nationally recognized Lands Legacy Program, Orange County has acquired or protected more than 2500 acres of land, both for natural resource and farmland preservation, and for parks. In 2007, this program won the Excellence in County Planning Award from the National Association of County Planners. It was also a finalist for the National Association of Counties and Trust for Public Lands "County Leadership in Conservation Award." In addition, the ERCD received for this program the N.C. Soil and Water District Society's Unit of Government award in 2004 for "outstanding achievement and contribution to resource-related programs."

This map and more information about the Lands Legacy Program is included in the 2009 State of the Environment Report.

Rural Buffer

     While she was chair of the Orange County Planning Board, Alice worked toward establishing the historic Joint Planning Agreement (JPA) for Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Orange County. She has been a staunch supporter of the JPA and rural buffer from the very beginning, and received the endorsement of the Alliance for the Rural buffer in the past. An illustration of her support came in the commissioners' decision concerning the county's construction of a new solid waste building. Initially she was the only commissioner to vote against the extension of water and sewer into the rural buffer to service that facility. That decision was later changed by a a unanimous vote of the commissioners, and the building was served by a well and innovative wastewater treatment system instead.

Rural Buffer sign

Parks and Open Space, Sustainable Growth

     Alice has advocated for wise long-range planning and for environmentally responsible and sustainable growth policies, starting with her service as chair of the Orange County Planning Board, and continuing with her service as a county commissioner. She has also been an advocate for creation of new parks and recreational facilities for people all over the county. The $20 million bond referendum passed in 2001 had money specified for land and a list of parks projects, and several of these parks have now been completed. Two of the newer parks are Cedar Grove Park in the northern part of the county, and Southern Community Park in the south. Alice will continue to work for prudent choices of land to purchase and to advocate for completion of the park facilities.

Alice at the ribbon cutting at Cedar Grove Park
Alice at the ribbon cutting at Cedar Grove Park

     She co-chaired the planning work group for Twin Creeks Park, and currently co-chairs the Intergovernmental Parks Work Group. She was one of the elected officials who took the lead in establishing the New Hope Preserve in Orange and Durham Counties, and recently served on the planning work group for the Hollow Rock Access to the New Hope Preserve.

Southern Community Park
Southern Community Park

Regional Transportation

Alice is holding the Goodmon Award for Exemplary Regional Service By An Elected Official      Alice's work on regional transportation is also part of her environmental advocacy, and she was recognized several years ago by the Orange-Chatham Group of the Sierra Club for her contributions in the area of transportation.

     She also received the Goodmon Award from Leadership Triangle for "Exemplary Regional Leadership By An Elected Official" in recognition of her contributions to regional transportation and environmental protection.

     See Accomplishments and Goals for Alice's work on regional transportation initiatives.

     See Leadership Award for information about the Goodmon Award.


Paid for by the Alice Gordon Campaign, PO Box 2425, Chapel Hill, NC 27515
Orange County State of the Environment 2004 Report Cover - Click to enlarge Orange County State of the Environment 2004 Report Dedication to Alice Gordon - Click to enlarge Orange County State of the Environment 2004 Report Purpose - Click to enlarge