November 9, 2022
By Kristen Parsons
DC Green Infrastructure Projects Assistant
Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
How do you balance multiple organizational missions while collaborating on a project? What do you do if the community you are trying to help doesn’t understand why you want to remove trees and shrubs in their neighborhood? How do you politely ask someone to stop dumping an invasive plant into a stream you worked hard to restore? Some of these questions don’t have simple, concise answers; however, all were considered and discussed during the Riparian Buffer Month Field Day in Washington, DC.
RIPARIAN BUFFER MONTH
On October 26th, Josh Burch, Environmental Protection Specialist for the District Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE), walked our group through three separate riparian buffer sites in various stages of development in DC’s Ward 7. This was just one of the planned events for Riparian Buffer Month in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed hosted by Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council’s (CCLC) and their many partners. Through field days and other outreach, Riparian Buffer Month showcases the importance and benefits of riparian buffers.
WHAT IS A RIPARIAN BUFFER?
While October was Riparian Buffer Month, it’s not too late to learn about these beneficial conservation areas. A riparian buffer is trees, shrubs, or other perennial vegetation growing alongside a body of water. Riparian buffers provide many conservation benefits, including filtering runoff, stabilizing eroding banks, increasing wildlife habitat and corridors, preventing flood damage, and more!
BUFFER FIELD DAY IN WASHINGTON, DC
SITE 1: PARK DRIVE STREAM RESTORATION. (TO BE CONSTRUCTED IN SPRING-SUMMER 2023.)
This first site we visited was currently untouched and a great example of why Josh, DOEE, and their partners do the work they do. We saw the impact erosion is having on the surrounding area as the stream inches closer and closer to Branch Avenue – a frequently driven, high-volume roadway.) The discussion was focused on the planning challenges, including limiting the impact on existing habitat while trying to improve the overall health of the environment, as well as the balance of utilizing local resources where practical and financially feasible. These views of pre-restoration were brought to mind throughout the afternoon as we explored sites in the later stages of implementation.
SITE 2: BRANCH AVE. STREAM RESTORATION. (CONSTRUCTED IN 2020.)
We had the unique opportunity to meet Donna An, the principal & owner of Actaeon, LLC, who constructed the Branch Avenue Stream Restoration project. She talked to us about compromises all involved parties had to make to see this restoration succeed. Her team had to put all progress on hold during the start of the COVID pandemic, but were still able to implement the project by the end of year. Listening to the neighboring community was essential for this project and it took great effort to gain the support of the local property owners. Through education outreach and finding ways to meet folks halfway, Actaeon was able to meet the goals of DOEE, DPR, and the community members. All parties made compromises, but the end result shows the power of partnership.
SITE 3: ALGER PARK STREAM RESTORATION. (CONSTRUCTED IN 2017.)
Our final site, Alger Park, was an established riparian buffer restoration project. It was incredible to see a portion of the 1,541 feet of stream restored. Though anecdotal, neighbors to the park have told Josh that during major storms the stream doesn’t rise as quickly as it used to – an example of one of the project’s main objectives: the reduction of stormwater volume and velocity. The restoration has also reduced erosion of the streambanks and improved the habitat for local flora & fauna. It reminded us all of the first stop of our field day and the continuous, positive impact Josh, DOEE, and their partners are going to have after they finish the Park Drive site.
BEST EFFORTS WITH UNPLANNED CONSEQUENCES
While on site at Alger Park, a neighboring property was taking a positive step in environmental restoration by removing a highly invasive species: bamboo.
Unfortunately, the method of removal resulted in shredded bamboo chips being directed into the newly restored stream, which had been plagued by invasive species prior to restoration. Thankfully, we were able to stop and talk to the involved parties about the various concerns with the actions they were taking. Josh was able to turn the unfortunate scenario into an instructional opportunity about the challenges the project managers had with other invasive plants on site and the never-ending need for communication, education, and engagement with our local communities beyond our direct partnerships.
How do you engage with your community? This blog has sparked the idea for two follow-up blog posts regarding communication tips for talking to your neighbors and community about environmental/conservation issues and topics as well as another on bamboo and other invasive species – stay tuned!
About the Author: https://www.allianceforthebay.org/staff/kristen-parsons/