Preservation and protection of the natural resources in Anson B. Nixon Park have always been key components of the Kennett Area Park Authority’s (KAPA’s) mission, including the adoption of a Stewardship Plan in 2007 and a Master Site Plan in 2013. As part of the implementation of these park planning efforts, and with funding provided by Kennett Township, the Borough of Kennett Square, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, and the PA Department of Environmental Protection — Growing Greener Grant, work began in March on an important stream restoration in the Park.
The Red Streams Blue program was created by the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance (BRC) in 2008 to ensure that all streams in the Brandywine and Red Clay Watersheds meet Pennsylvania and Delaware water quality standards. One area of focus has been the Upper Red Clay Creek, an impaired stream section in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Recognizing the efforts of BRC upstream, KAPA reached out to BRC to partner on a project in Anson B. Nixon Park that will ultimately restore 4,400 feet of impaired sections of the main stem of the East Branch of the Red Clay Creek, and a tributary. Also acknowledging that Pennsylvania requires municipalities to meet MS4 Pollution Reduction planning goals for stormwater management, KAPA reached out to Kennett Township and the Borough of Kennett Square to assist with the project (stream restoration qualifies as a pollution reduction strategy under this federally-mandated program).
You may have noticed some trail closures and heavy equipment in the park while work in and adjacent to the stream was underway. The Scope of Work included re-grading the streambank to a lower slope (pulling back the bank and recreating the gentle slope that typifies a stream flood zone) and planting the banks with native grasses, wildflowers, and ground cover. Bank seeding is an important final step necessary to stabilize steam banks after the stream bank is pulled back.
In addition to streambank re-grading, the following stream restoration practices were used to help restore nature stream conditions: Rock Deflectors line the stream with rock embankments to deflect water away from erodible areas: Cross Vanes use careful placement of larger stones to direct water away from banks to the center of the stream in “C” or “V” shaped configurations; J-hooks channel water away from eroding stream banks in a “J” shape; Rock Packing bolsters and protects trees already at risk due to erosive runoff; Step Pools mimic staircase steps, built with rocks that effectively slow the stream and create pools for habitat; Stone Toes are large stones placed at the stream bank to prevent bank erosion; and Root Wads, where the trunk and roots of a fallen tree are embedded into the stream bank to reduce stream velocity and provide a natural habitat for fish. These in-stream structures work together to help maintain stream channel integrity and provide bank protection for the long-term.
Other components of the plan include streamside planting, including; Live Stakes, which are whips and other small trees “staked” into the ground to assist with soil stabilization, and shade trees, which will be added next year. These riparian buffers reduce sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the creek, and help reduce erosion. They can also save trees along the creek bed by helping to stabilize eroding stream banks, connect the stream to its flood plain, provide stream shading, and in turn, improve fish and aquatic habitats.
In addition to helping local municipalities meet MS4 Pollution Reduction Plans (for stormwater management), the completion of this stream restoration project will go a long way towards enhancing the aesthetic quality of the park. For example, this coordinated effort will also protect and save trails in the park, in coordination with the overall planning for park improvements and trail plans. A project like this is a true win-win for Anson B. Nixon Park, Kennett Township, the Borough of Kennett Square, and the resources and wildlife of the Red Clay Creek.
Ongoing maintenance of these areas will be provided by the Kennett Area Park Authority staff and volunteers. Already, a significant portion of the creek and its tributary have been restored, and several trees along the creek bank have been saved. Efforts are ongoing, and Phase 2 of the project will continue through fall and winter of 2020 and 2021.