Slowing the flow is the name of the game.
A stream restoration project is aiming to reshape and restore the north branch of Bennett Creek, which flows into the east end of Joe Richardson’s property near Urbana.
“I believe in stewardship much more so than ownership,” Richardson said.
The 115-acre property is home to Bar-T Mountainside, a summer camp, after-school program and environmental education center.
Some goals of the restoration project include addressing severe sediment erosion, reshaping the creek and restoring the flood plain.
Ultimately, any erosion that occurs in the creek will be carried into other waterways, such as the Chesapeake Bay.
Some erosion is normal. However, up to 5 or 6 feet of sediment has eroded horizontally. This keeps natural flooding from occurring, vegetation from growing on the streambanks and nutrients from being filtered.
In June 2017, the restoration project received over $1 million in funding from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.
Frederick County also chipped in almost $97,000 for engineering and design.
Donald Dorsey, a project manager for the Frederick County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources, said one of the main goals for the county is finding cost-effective ways to improve water quality. This project was a good candidate for that and had previously been identified in a watershed study as having severe erosion.
“Ultimately, the biggest goal is in five years, people wouldn’t even know that there was a stream [restoration] project there,” he said. “It would return back to a natural state where things are kind of self-sufficient.”
About three months into the project, large amounts of sediment has been removed, banks of the creek and its tributaries have been reinforced, trees have been removed and pocket wetlands have been created.
“Since we’ve purchased the property, the stream looked completely different,” Richardson said. “There were some places where there was 5-foot sediment walls that over two or three years kind of blew out and the stream was trying to reshape itself.”
The changes are meant to force the water to flow more slowly to reduce erosion and create the opportunity for nitrogen and phosphorus to be filtered out of the water by a wetland area and creek-side plants and trees.
Students from several schools, including Urbana High School, have been part of the restoration.
“We’re an environmental educator,” Richardson said. “There’s so much opportunity for teaching here.”
In March, planting will begin. Hundreds of trees and plants such as aquatic grasses will be added.
Richardson said he hopes to make the land a showcase for sustainable architectural, energy, agricultural and environmental practices.
“Fifty years from now, long after I’m gone, I’m hoping amphibians and habitat[s] will thrive here, that this will be a place where people can come and see what stewardship looks like.”