Campus News

Battle Grove: soothing sounds and scenery

A 2017 restoration has made this water-centric outdoor space an environmentally friendly place to see spring in bloom and maybe glimpse an otter or “KP” the turtle.

Battle Grove with its mulched trails and plants near blooming, April 4, 2022.
A look at Battle Grove from the area's north border with Battle Branch's daylighted water flowing southward. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

It’s spring. Time to take a break outside. That’s easy at Carolina, with its plentiful green spaces for strolling and relaxing.

But you might go by a certain one daily without ever thinking about lingering there — Battle Grove, just off Country Club Road. It’s a relative sprig of a park compared to better known spots, such as McCorkle Place with its venerated hardwoods, but it’s a nice change with some meaningful background.

The University created the scenic spot by unearthing Battle Branch creek, which had been piped under the two acres since the 1930s. Despite the water’s underground path, the area remained prone to flooding and was often soggy.

That’s because, after a rain, runoff from 40 acres of campus converges at the sloping area. A purposeful re-working of the area completed in 2017 is officially called the Battle Grove Stormwater Conveyance. The project re-connected the daylighted streams to the floodplain, reduced flooding and increased biodiversity, stream health and water quality by slowing water flow with tiered pools and filtering out excess nutrients. The improvements slow the water before it flows to Jordan Lake.

A flower blooms in Battle Grove. (Photo by Geneva Green)

A flower blooms along a Battle Grove footpath. (Geneva Green/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The berms, pools and rocks create a habitat for plants, amphibians and birds. Plantings were chosen for their ability to flourish in areas that groundskeepers call high marsh, low marsh, flowering meadow, meadow and zones for ferns, trees and shrubs. The plantings along the mulched trails also will attract birds and pollinators. Signs by the trails contain names of nearby plants, flowers and trees, including crimson-eyed rosemallow, cardinal flower, the Southern catalpa tree and great blue lobelia. Visit soon and into May to possibly see spiderwort, iris, baptisia, clover, blue-eyed grass and the yellowwood tree and other plants blooming.

You might even glimpse KP the snapping turtle (named by groundskeepers for grove namesake Kemp Plummer Battle, president of the University 1876-1891) or an otter who has passed through before.

You can access Battle Grove via a brick walkway by McIver Residence Hall that borders the area’s north side. Stone steps at the corner of Boundary Street and Battle Lane lead to the lowest of the intermittent pools.

Coker Arboretum across Raleigh Street had similar problems as a boggy pasture before its decades-long transformation into a favorite spot for relaxing and enjoying nature’s beauty.

Now Battle Grove is the rising star on the block.

Learn more about the water that flows under and through campus in The Well’s story on Meeting of the Waters Creek.

Battle Grove, view from southeast corner toward a pool of water from Battle Branch.

At the southeast corner of Battle Grove, the streams converge in a pool before flowing under the street and on to Jordan Lake. (Scott Jared/UNC-Chapel Hill)