(re)making a stream

December 14, 2020

top: Steve Eisenhauer, middle and bottom: Daniel Barringer

This past summer, our land stewardship staff completed the largest restoration project in Crow’s Nest Preserve’s history. It started with a “nudge” from Mother Nature.

Back in June, 2018, heavy rainfall caused an old pond dam to fail. The dam had been built many decades ago to create a pond that provided water for livestock and in case of fire at the former farmstead. While pretty to look at, man-made ponds increase the water’s temperature and attract Canada Geese whose droppings increase phosphorus levels, negatively impacting aquatic life downstream. Naturally occurring wetlands, by contrast, are far more beneficial to wildlife.

So, when the dam at Crow’s Nest failed, it was an opportunity to restore the stream that once flowed through the property. The US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service provided both funding and engineering services while Natural Lands staff replanted the reconstructed stream banks.

The team installed erosion-control mats over wildflower seeds and a cover crop of rye. Preserve Manager Dan Barringer noted, “The mats aid in germination and keep the soil in place until the plants be-come established. There are places in these mudflats where you can lose a boot!”

They also planted a variety of native shrubs along the stream’s edge, including smooth alder, winterberry holly, chokeberry, ninebark, and red osier dogwood. The banks of the stream are bolstered with stone, further protecting it from erosion.

“This project was many years in the making,” said Dan. “It’s fantastic to see it come to completion, and I can’t wait to watch the plants fill in and see what kind of wildlife begin to appear as the wetlands mature.”

To view this restoration project in person, take the Creek Trail past the “Tiny Library” and up into the Jacob farmstead. Or, coming back from the Chief’s Grove there is a bench overlooking the restoration and Jacob barn.