by Julie Richburg

In the middle of August, staff from The Trustees of Reservations, Project Native, and Helia Land Design, along with a crew of dedicated volunteers, planted more than 1,700 trees along the banks of the Housatonic River at Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield, MA. After several years of planning and preparation, it was finally time for the tree seedlings to get into the ground and begin their development into a major river floodplain forest—a natural community that is now rare throughout the region. Continue reading

by Max Rome, Nick Bernat, and Lauren Valle

In precolonial times the Blackstone River was a large and ecologically-rich tidal river. As it meandered 49 miles from present day Worcester, MA to Providence, RI the Blackstone drained an area of 479 square miles and fell 450 feet. Known as Kittacuck, “great tidal river,” to the native peoples who lived along these waters, the bountiful river provided wetland habitat for native mollusks, anadromous fishes, and other important species. Continue reading

Defining and Executing the Project

by Lisa Cowan, PLA, ASLA

I had the fortunate experience of being in the right place, right time to be the lead landscape architect on the design and construction management team selected to restore a 17-acre riparian stream and forest buffer in Scarborough, Maine, as mitigation for a highway project. This was the early 1990s – there were no precedents for this type of project and we were consultants to a state agency, Maine DOT, that was used to building highways, not forests! Continue reading

by Russ Hopping

Parks and other cultural landscapes require careful planning and stewardship to make them special places for visitors. The natural world includes equally special and unique places that may require our care as well. The lines are not always clear between what is natural and what is cultural, however. Indeed in many, perhaps even all, locations the two can overlap and can be compatible. Continue reading

by Nick Novick

Beginning about ten years ago, a significant portion of the landscape around Kent Hospital has been transformed from the common template of mostly maintenance-intensive lawn and beds of shrubs and annuals to a more sustainable model comprising stormwater retention, mostly native plants, and designs that are more self-sustaining. Continue reading

by Anja Ryan

Throughout New England’s cities and towns there are many uncovered opportunities to reclaim previously developed land. Forgotten over the years, old railroad beds, burned-out mill foundations, and vacant lots have become overgrown with successive vegetation, been vandalized, and used as dumping grounds. Sometimes structures remain, beckoning us from a not so distant past. As our urban centers start to see a new renaissance through the “smart growth” movement gains and as people from the suburbs move back to urban areas, the land these abandoned places occupy is becoming more valuable. Continue reading
by Thomas Benjamin
Ecosystem restoration is often driven by a regulatory requirement, which makes the voluntary improvement of a 30-acre section of urban oasis including forest, meadow, and shoreline quite unusual. What is even more extraordinary is that this island of tranquility is located in densely populated Cambridge, Massachusetts and within sight of downtown Boston. Continue reading

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES™)

The Chestnut Creek Restoration project is a small stream-side renovation project that sits behind the central parking area of the Town Hall in Neversink, New York.

Chesnut Creek 1Project Overview
Chestnut Creek is an environmentally sensitive stream corridor whose waters flow directly into the New York City reservoir system. The project objectives included removal of invasive plants along the stream bank, stabilizing the stream bank, creating a showcase of native plantings to encourage their use by the public, and managing adjacent parking lot run-off. The restoration area was previously covered with lawn that allowed unfiltered water to flow directly into Chestnut Creek. The area, now restored and planted as a wildflower garden with native vegetation, extends 300 feet along Chestnut Creek’s banks. The design, installation, and maintenance of this project provided many educational opportunities for the designer, agencies involved, contractors, and community volunteers. The project was a joint effort of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the Sullivan County Soil & Water Conservation District, and the Town of Neversink, New York.

Site Context
The site is located about 100 miles north of New York City in the Catskill Mountains, within the North Central Appalachian bioregion. This portion of the Town of Neversink is located within the Hudson River Watershed. The town is host to two of New York City’s six reservoirs west of the Hudson. The Town of Neversink is also the southernmost community in Catskill Park, a 700,000-acre Forest Preserve managed by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Being the local access to the Catskill Park System, Neversink supports recreational activities such as hiking, biking, hunting, fishing and camping. The climate is a humid temperate climate, with cold winters and warm summers. Average annual precipitation is between 40 and 48 inches of rain, with 60 to 100 inches of snow.

Sustainable Practices
Protect and restore riparian zones: Because the area was prone to flooding and erosion damage, large stone rip-rap was placed at eroded bank areas and the corridor was planted with deep rooted and colorful native species of shrubs, trees, grasses, and perennials. The planted area filters run-off from the Town Hall parking lot and provides habitat for birds and butterflies. There is a grass pre-treatment strip before the water enters the planting. The planting itself slows down and filters water.

Chestnut Creek 2Eliminate potable water consumption for irrigation: All of the plants that were planted after invasive species were removed use no supplemental irrigation. The garden was established late in the season, in September. That year, the ground was still moist with an abundance of rainfall. The initial planting did receive hand bucketed water from the stream for dry container plants.

Control and manage invasive species: The existing stream bank was a disturbed area full of invasive plants such as Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) and Japanese Barberry (Berberis sp.). The invasive species were removed and replaced with native plants. The plants came from a local nursery, Catskill Perennials in Callicoon, New York, about 30 miles away. Some were propagated by that nursery and some of the plugs were ordered from a large native plants nursery in Pennsylvania, which is still within 150 miles.

Promote sustainability awareness and education: This project was also conceived as an educational tool to encourage the local community to remove invasives and plant native species. Colorful cultivars and plants with seasonal interest were chosen to engage public interest. To educate visitors, attractive ceramic markers with the common and scientific names were also installed. To date, the educational aspect of this project continues to evolve. Recently, high school students from the local Tri-Valley School under the direction of their new natural resources teacher have become involved with identifying and removing invasive plants, native seed collection, and installation of additional trees to maintain the shade area of the garden, as well as other horticultural tasks. This is a great boon to the garden, since previously it was weeded only twice a year by community volunteers. There are further plans by the high school to use the garden as a teaching resource regarding biodiversity and native plants, which will involve monitoring bird, amphibian, and insect visitation, and the garden’s success at providing habitat. In addition, the NYC DEP periodically checks the plantings for species survivability and erosion control, since this was a demonstration stream project in which they have a stake.

Use regional materials: Rip-rap and soil mixtures were sourced from a local farm. All the mulch used on site was ground bark from a local lumber mill less than 5 miles away. The farm has deep deposits of sandy soil and managers have been mixing that with on-site manure for many years.

Construction Cost
Of the $18,900 total cost, labor costs were $8,400. Approximately 192 hours of volunteer labor and 24 hours of backhoe and dump truck labor were used during construction. Plant materials were $7,000, and site materials cost $3,500.

Monitoring Information
To ensure that weed and deer damage are kept to a minimum, informal monitoring had previously been done by the designer and volunteers. The program for weeding was primarily in the spring, in early May, as part of a larger Town-wide spring clean-up program when many volunteers were available. Fall clean-ups were also organized and included persuading the Town not to have their landscape maintenance crew cut down perennials so that seed heads can be left for birds and leaf litter for insects and amphibians. Because of the excessive rain, the deer repellent program was not effective this year. Most of the Monarda didyma was eaten but most other plants did well and were not browsed excessively.

Chestnut Creek 3Maintenance
Weeding was done twice a year. During the first 2 years it was done at least every 2 weeks. Because the plantings had grown so prolifically, there was not as much opportunity for weeds to invade. However, during flooding, the soil is open and weed seeds from invasive plants do get a foot hold. Most problematic is crown vetch, barberry, and oriental bittersweet. Currently, the high school natural resource class has taken on the responsibility of garden maintenance and monitoring and has performed a thorough fall weeding and assessment. If continued, some of the maintenance problems encountered, such as mistaken removal of trees with woodpecker holes by overzealous town maintenance personnel, will cease and the garden as a whole will thrive as a biodiverse planting.

Issues/Constraints of the Site
* The area was prone to flooding and erosion damage. When areas of stone rip-rap washed away during floods, plantings were destroyed and had to be replaced. Larger rip-rap went in the following season. To date, along with deep-rooted native plantings, the stream bank has successfully held against further erosion since 2007.
* The local deer population needed to be kept away from new and establishing native plantings.
* Initially, the replanting of isolated areas cost $500 per year, due to flooding and deer, but that has been reduced because plantings are now established and the deer repellent protocol is in place. The mulch, which is supplied by the Town Highway Dept, is estimated at another $500 per year.
* There was a steep learning curve for site maintenance crews accustomed to caring for the adjacent traditionally-landscaped Town Hall. Education of personnel continues, with a focus on letting seedheads and leaf litter remain over the winter and not removing trees with cavities that are not dangerous.

Lessons Learned
* The deer repellent program (non-toxic spraying) needs to be consistent, and instituted early in the season to be effective. Deer establish a pattern over time to avoid certain plantings and at that point, the spraying can become less frequent.
* The value of ‘less than perfect’ tree specimens, that still provide important habitat, needs to be impressed upon maintenance personnel.
* Volunteer participants learned key lessons about native vegetation: During the establishment period, native plantings of all kinds need the same attention and management program as conventional plantings. Invasive species will continue to compete with the native vegetation and human intervention is required in order to maintain viable populations of native species.

Chestnut Creek Restoration Project Designer

Barbara Z. Restaino, RLA, LEED AP
Restaino Design Landscape Architects, PC
290 Main St., PO Box 778
Grahamsville, NY 12740

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES™) is a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden in conjunction with a diverse group of stakeholder organizations. The central message of the Sustainable Sites Initiative is that any landscape—whether the site of a large subdivision, a shopping mall, a park, an abandoned rail yard, or even one home—holds the potential both to improve and to regenerate the natural benefits and services provided by ecosystems in their undeveloped state.

by Penny Lewis

Eel River stream channelAcross the country, collaborative restoration efforts are underway to restore wetlands, meadows, and other critical habitat. One such project is the Eel River Headwaters Restoration Project in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The combined efforts and funding of the Town of Plymouth; Division of Ecological Restoration – Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; US Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service; the NatureEel River project Conservancy; American Rivers; and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has demonstrated the power of collaboration on a recent and successful restoration project.

The restoration of the headwaters of Eel River is one of the most ambitious coastal restoration projects completed to date in New England, encompassing a total of 60 acres. It is the largest Atlantic white cedar swamp restoration in Massachusetts and includes a variety of restoration techniques in a single project area including:
· Stream channel and floodplain re-construction
· Fill removal
· Extensive wetland plantings
· Rare-species habitat creation/enhancement
· Dam removals
· Culvert replacements

The project exemplifies holistic restoration of an entire coastal headwaters area, including both wetland and riverine elements. It was a product of innovative design, years of partner coordination and collaboration, multiple funding sources, and extensive input and technical assistance from the entire team. The project received a $1 million grant in 2008 from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant, which provided the majority of funding for construction. The project took approximately five years to complete.

Eel River.cranberry bogsSite Prior to Restoration

The Eel River Headwaters area was once a wetland noted on maps as early as 1830. The river once flowed uninterrupted from the headwaters spring to the ocean, and supported a diverse array of fish, wildlife, and wetland communities with strong coastal connectivity.

Decades of agricultural activities turned the area into cranberry bogs and resulted in the removal of trees, modification of the stream channel, and construction of upland berms and water control structures.

Eel River sawmill dam

The downstream dam was a barrier to fish migration and the impoundment affected habitat, water quality and natural riverine processes.

Restoration Project Goals

· Improve fish passage and promote a healthy coldwater fishery
providing suitable habitat for temperature-sensitive species, such as brook trout
· Improve water quality
· Establish rare wetland communities
· Provide the public with recreational and educational opportunities
· Increase biological diversity in the headwaters area to improve ecological resilience
· Connect to other conservation land, providing migration corridors for a variety of species
· Provide conservationists with valuable information to guide other wetland restoration efforts

Eel River streambedProject Overview:

The restoration included restoring two miles of stream channel which was constructed using over 1,000 pieces of large wood for in-stream habitat features; the removal of multiple barriers to restore connectivity; the filling of miles of agricultural drainage ditches; and the creation of a new floodplain.

The project involved restoration of 40 acres of wetlands involving extensive wetland plantings (including the planting of 17,000+ Atlantic white cedar trees) and re-establishment of rare wetland communities.

Eel River turtleThe project has resulted in a radical transformation of a once ecologically-barren, former cranberry bog complex into high-value, high-quality river and wetland habitat, permanently preserved for the use and enjoyment of the public.

Even before the restoration work was complete, use of the newly created habitat has been documented. American eels have been observed passing the site of the removed dam to access the restored channel upstream, connecting the Headwaters with the Atlantic Ocean.

Join ELA for a professionally-guided tour of The Eel River and Town Brook restoration projects in Plymouth, MA on Thursday, October 21, 2010. For more information and to register online, go to the ELA EVENTS CALENDAR.

For more information:

Town of Plymouth
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
MA Dept. of Fish & Game – Division of Ecological Restoration
The Nature Conservancy
American Rivers

Penny Lewis is Executive Director of Ecological Landscaping Association

By Jennifer Chesworth

In Central Pennsylvania, a local grassroots organization has made restoration the centerpiece of watershed protection.

Central Pennsylvania

The ridges, valleys, farms and forests of Centre County, Pennsylvania share a truly unique “karst” topography of limestone and shale, underground streams, numerous caves, springs, and sinkholes, and a rare outcropping of quartz crystal that cuts across the center of the state. Famous as a destination for fly fishermen (even president Jimmy Carter used to frequent the local waters of Spring Creek), the county sits atop a hydro-geological divide, with most of its watersheds feeding the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay, while some flow across the Allegheny Plateau to join the Ohio River and the Mississippi. The region’s water resources include the second largest spring in the state, Big Spring in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, which flows at 14 and a half million gallons per day, supplying water to a Coca-Cola bottling plant, among other users. Farming, especially dairy farming, is still the traditional way of life in the mostly rural areas of Centre and surrounding Counties.

Clearwater. Spring_Creek_and_farmThe karst topography of the region means that the ground is very porous, with groundwater that’s especially susceptible to contamination from surface activities, impacting the quality of water far beyond the boundaries of county lines and jurisdictions.

That’s why ClearWater Conservancy, a regional land trust and natural resource conservation organization founded in 1980, has built a strong network of local volunteers and landowners working to restore critical, natural buffers that protect local springs, streams, and groundwater resources. With dozens of riparian restoration projects already under its belt and about 10 local property owners contacting the organization each year to participate in the restoration program, ClearWater’s success — and the long-term effectiveness of restoration — has depended to a great extent on keeping local volunteers engaged and glad to be involved.

Clearwater VolunteersAnnual events, such as the Watershed Clean-up Day held every spring to honor Earth Day, the Spring Creek Clean-up Day each autumn, and the locally-popular winter fundraiser “For the Love of Art and Chocolate,” help reinforce friendships among volunteers and sustain enthusiasm in the broader community. Who doesn’t love chocolate?

“We’ve learned a lot over time,” says Katie Ombalski, a conservation biologist who has worked at the organization for ten years, one of five staff members at ClearWater. “Outreach is important, but you’ve also got to carefully select appropriate tasks so you have happy volunteers who successfully complete the work.”

Clearwater riparian restoration prepared for tree plantingMuch of the work that goes into restoration — preparing ground for planting trees, moving rock, picking appliances that may have been there for 50 years out of a sinkhole — is hard labor.

“A riparian restoration site will need regular maintenance for 3 to 5 years, until tree seedlings can establish a strong enough root ball. People may show up for a day of hard labor, but if they go home tired and sore, they justifiably feel like they’ve made a significant contribution. We’ve learned that they’re not Clearwater riparian restoration volunteeras likely to show up for on-going work parties,” Katie explains. “Now we use contractors to come in and prepare the sites and plant large numbers of trees and shrubs. Jobs like small tree planting and installing tree tubes are better suited for most volunteers.”

Site preparation conducted by contractors, usually professional arborists, typically begins with application of a glyphosate herbicide and pre-emergence treatments. But in the case of ClearWater’s largest and most successful project, restoration of a riparian strip nearly 3/4 of a mile long on an agricultural property long-used as a sheep farm owned by Penn State University, chemical applications were not an option. The site is within close proximity to a wellhead used as the university’s drinking water supply. As property owner, the university chose to apply a zero-risk policy rather than chemical treatments.

Clearwater riparian restoration 2“Preparing the site was done entirely by hand, which was extremely difficult as we found those agricultural grasses are incredibly thick-rooted and tenacious,” says Katie. “We could not have accomplished all that prep work and hand-weeding maintenance in subsequent years on such a large site without the university as landowner. The university has a farm manager and staff who are regularly able to contribute time to the Sheep Farm Restoration Project.”

With $25,000 in private funding from the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, ClearWater partnered with the university and with the local Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited to improve in-stream habitat and to plant and maintain a riparian buffer along the creek on the Sheep Farm. Stream-side fencing to keep the sheep from walking into the creek bed was moved away from the bank on both sides of the stream, back into Clearwater riparian restoration 1the pasture to an average 52 feet width. Chemical-free site preparation included using a mower deck with a tiller to clear an 8 by 8 feet area for every tree to be planted, and auguring 24 inch holes at each point to completely remove all of the root mass from grasses before planting trees. After planting, black plastic weed barriers covered the ground around each tree, along with hardwood mulch brought in from the university’s composting facility. Mulch was spread 4 inches thick on the entire 8 by 8 feet area for every tree. Grasses and other weeds, if left in the ground, can easily out-compete tree seedlings for water. As part of regular, ongoing maintenance, volunteers go in each year and hand-weed, shore up the protective tubes around the seedlings, and reapply mulch.

“We even had two Eagle Scouts who earned their wings by participating in the Sheep Farm Restoration Project,” says Katie. “They helped with planning, ordering, and volunteer coordination, as well as pitching in on work days. The project required a lot of administrative work. It was a good education for them, and something fun that they’ll never forget.”

Partnerships have been as critical to ClearWater’s success as is its ability to retain volunteers. When a local farm property adjacent to state forest lands recently became available, ClearWater stepped in to purchase the farm from a private developer and placed it in trust, then transferred the property P1010386to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry. The transfer increased Rothrock State Forest by 423 acres. Called Musser Gap, the site includes an old dam and reservoir that at one time supplied water to the university, several miles away. This month, with the help of the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Pennsylvania DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry, ClearWater is initiating a new project to remove the dam and restore the natural stream bed through the gap.

“The dam no longer has any functional use and is in a tremendous state of disrepair,” says Katie. “Now that it’s no longer private property and the public can access the dam area, it’s a real liability. Musser Gap is a popular hiking destination and home to P1010385one of five remaining Brook Trout populations in our region, so people do go up there. Restoring the stream bed is a good idea any way you look at it.”

Hauling and removing stone and concrete from the site would damage the forest on the way down the gap and out. Fortunately, concrete on the dam’s large walled basin was applied like plaster, with native stones underneath. The walls will be broken apart and used to fill in the basin, then covered with as much additional native stone as needed, with stepped pools built above the dam for grade control and amphibian habitat.

Clearwater raingarden in processWith so many local landowners turning to ClearWater for help and advice on restoring native habitat and protecting the watershed, the organization decided it was important to set a good example. Its own offices, in what was once a Township municipal building still owned by the local government, are located in what Katie calls “a sea of asphalt.” With the help of their landlord, Patton Township, and with volunteer Master Gardeners who keep an eye on the place, ClearWater P1010383installed rain barrels and a rain garden, widened planting space, reduced impervious surface further still by getting rid of one driveway altogether, and created a native meadow including plants to draw birds and butterflies. Interpretive panels explain landscaping choices to visitors, with the site serving as a demonstration for ClearWater’s educational “Watershed-Wise Techniques for Backyards and Businesses” program. The building is pictured here before and after installation of the rain garden.

“It’s hard to tell people what to do when they can see you’re not doing it yourself,” says Katie. “We wanted to give people ideas, and to show that you can do all this at home, even on less than a half-acre.”

Clearwater_Same_Bathtub * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The good people of ClearWater Conservancy can be reached at (814) 237-0400 and found on the web here.

“We’re All in the Same Bathtub” copyright Jim McClure, all rights reserved for ClearWater Conservancy.

Jennifer Chesworth is editor of Ecological Landscaping Association’s e-news and is a native Central Pennsylvanian.