Volunteers plant a riparian buffer on Mill Creek,Lancaster County, Photo: Kristen Kyler, Penn State University
More than 50 volunteers planted 800 trees on the banks of Lancaster County's Mill Creek, which has recently undergone major restoration. In the past the banks of Mill Creek were very unstable, which caused a great amount of erosion and stream sedimentation. With the restoration underway, the banks have now been stabilized. The effort included installing structures such as mudsills and cross vanes, which not only protect the streambanks, but also provide habitat for the future fish population. In the restoration process, the resident cattle were also fenced out of the area right next to the stream and the banks were graded to allow water onto the floodplain during heavy rain events. By reconnecting the stream to the floodplain, the stress on the banks will decrease, making the stream healthier. This also allows floodwaters a place to spread out and infiltrate into the ground rather than rushing downstream and causing damage.
Another vital step in restoration involved planting trees and shrubs that grow well along the banks of the stream. This step is essential to permanently stabilize the stream banks and return the stream to a more natural state. The roots of these trees will act as a net to keep the soil from eroding away in high water and heavy rains. The trees, once mature, also cool the water with their shade (great for cold water fish and other wildlife), provide shelter and food for wildlife in and out of the stream, and filter potential pollution from the water of that washes over the land and into the stream. In the coming years, these trees will need maintenance to ensure their survival, but the end result should be a gorgeous and natural stream, brimming with healthy wildlife!
It's always fantastic to see so many people come together as a community to help create healthier streams and better water quality. It was a very hot day to be digging holes and planting trees in the sun, but everyone was incredibly helpful and had great spirit! In addition to the volunteers, the partnership included Lancaster County Conservation District's Watershed Specialist, Matt Koforth; Fritz Schroeder, Director of Urban Greening with the Lancaster County Conservancy; and Jennifer Fetter, Water Resources Educator and Volunteer Coordinator with Penn State Extension. If you would like to join future volunteer opportunities in the Lower Susquehanna region, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.