February 21, 2017 - Today, Mayor Tom Henry and Parks & Recreation Landscape Architect Alec Johnson, along with representatives from the Great Lakes Commission, and the DNR’s Indiana Lake and River Enhancement Program (LARE), kicked off the St. Marys Small Scale Streambank Stabilization project. The Great Lakes Commission awarded the project $80,000 over a two year period, and Indiana DNR LARE awarded the project $100,000 this year for construction and $32,000 last year for design.
This project, taking place at Headwaters Park and the Old Fort, is the first of many projects recommended by the Riparian Master Plan the City of Fort Wayne commissioned at the end of the Riverfront Master Planning process. The projects address erosion, invasive plant species, and create riparian buffers necessary to improve water quality and user experience of those enjoying our rivers. In addition to this bank stabilization project, the Parks and Recreation Department is coordinating numerous other riparian projects and facilitated volunteer work days last year to clean riverbanks and remove invasive plant species.
This bank stabilization project is an ecological solution to a natural problem. Over the years, flooding on the St. Marys River has eroded the steep bank by Headwaters Park and the Old Fort at the rate of approximately 1 foot per year. A significant amount of soil has been washed into the rivers as a result of this erosion. In addition to losing approximately 10' of park land over the last 10 years, the eroded soil has been deposited into the river. This project utilizes a combination of natural armoring and natural vegetation to stabilize the bank, create a riparian buffer, and prevent further erosion.
“This project is a positive example of the progress we’ll continue to make as we invest in our rivers through the riverfront development initiative,” said Mayor Tom Henry. “Our rivers serve as a point of destination as we enhance quality of place amenities and economic development opportunities to move Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana forward in the right direction.”
The term riparian buffer is used to describe lands adjacent to streams and rivers where vegetation is strongly influenced by the presence of water. They are often thin lines-of-green containing native grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees that line the stream banks. They are also called vegetated buffer zones. A healthy riparian area is evidence of wise land use management.
Riparian buffers are important for good water quality. Riparian zones help to prevent sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides and other pollutants from reaching a stream. Riparian buffers are most effective at improving water quality when they include a native grass or herbaceous filter strip along with deep rooted trees and shrubs along the stream. Riparian buffers provide valuable habitat for wildlife. In addition to providing food and cover, they are an important corridor or travel way for a variety of wildlife.
Riparian vegetation slows floodwaters, thereby helping to maintain stable streambanks and protect downstream property. By slowing down floodwaters and rainwater runoff, the riparian vegetation allows water to soak into the ground and recharge groundwater. Slowing floodwaters allows the riparian zone to function as a site of sediment deposition, trapping sediments that build stream banks and would otherwise degrade our streams and rivers.
The bank stabilization project is expected to be completed by the end of April, 2017.