Tryon Daily Bulletin Jul 25, 2007

FENCE undertakes major stream restoration project

State program provides $850,000

Blockhouse Creek, a Broad River basin tributary running eastward through FENCE’s property in Tryon, will be gaining a new lease on life during the winter thanks to an $850,000 project from the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program (EEP).

The four-month-long project will restore the stream to its natural course, decrease streambank erosion and sedimentation and replace non-native vegetation with native species.

The project, approved early this summer by FENCE’s board of directors, will be managed by Buck Engineering, an environmental engineering firm based in Asheville which has carried out similar EEP-funded programs throughout the Broad River Basin, of which the Pacolet River and tributaries like Blockhouse Creek are a part.

“The goals of this project are to return the stream to a stable form that will provide suitable habitat and improve surface water quality in the Broad River basin,” said Buck Engineering’s Jake Stokes, one of the project’s engineers. “The fact that this project is taking place on FENCE facilities will make it an opportunity for the public to be better educated on ecological systems and the value of restoration.”

Streambank erosion has worsened over the years, dumping increased amounts of sediment into the creek and decreasing the dissolved oxygen content of the water. In recent years, a section of the streambank at the western end of the stream completely collapsed, sending timber and iron abutments into the streambed, and a footbridge near the equestrian center’s main barns collapsed when the banks could no longer support its footings.

Further downstream, sinkholes have developed where the stream’s rapid water flow crosses under the oval course on which the Block House Steeplechase is run each year, while sandy deposits from sedimentation along the eastern reaches of the stream, near the Nature Pond, have become troublesome.

The restoration will seek to recreate the stream’s original meandering course, a first step in slowing the stream’s flow rate to reduce erosion. Reinforcement of the streambanks with natural wood and stone features will also figure in the restoration, along with the planting of native shrubs to anchor the soil and tree species for shade.

Understory trees and shrubs to be planted include tag alder, silky dogwood and elderberry, while tree species scheduled for planting include persimmon, sycamore and tulip. Native grasses will include bentgrass, blue-stem, wild rye and deer tongue.

Work is scheduled to be completed by mid-March, 2008 with the establishment of a buffer zone along the stream protected by a conservation easement.

“This is a crucially important step in restoring the environmental health of the creek,” said Norm Powers, chairman of the FENCE board of directors. “It’s the kind of work it would take years of fundraising for us to accomplish by ourselves.”