Stream Restoration

A tributary of the Shenk’s Branch runs through the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont and it will be a focal point of the Garden’s design, once completed.
Shenk’s Branch

However, in its current state, the stream has become unhealthy. Its heavily eroded banks are unsafe, the plant life and trees which live on its banks have been damaged, and the stream is creating sediment issues downstream, which ultimately impacts the Chesapeake Watershed. As a result, the City of Charlottesville, in close consultation with the Garden, has begun an effort to repair the stream.

Let us be clear. In the short term, this project may be painful to watch. It means removing approximately 70 damaged trees and invasive shrubs from the banks of the stream. However, once completed the City and Garden together have committed to planting nearly 1,000 new trees and shrubs – all native to the region. Growth can be ugly. But this is a necessary step toward creating a healthy and sustainable resource that can be enjoyed for generations.

We hope that the following provides information that will address any questions. We’ve also included comments from area organizations who support this decision.

WHY is the stream restoration necessary?

Rivanna Conservation Alliance

“In its current state, the stream is severely eroded and nearly inaccessible due to its very steep banks. It has been challenging to bring students down to the water and to collect adequate samples of aquatic organisms for them to study. RCA’s certified stream health assessments confirm that the stream is in poor condition, and far from meeting Virginia’s water quality standard for aquatic life. By putting sediment and nutrient pollution into the water, the continuing erosion of the stream’s banks and bottom is also likely exacerbating water quality problems in Meadow Creek, the Rivanna River, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.”

– Rivanna Conservation Alliance

Virginia Department of Forestry

“The improvement of the buffer at the Botanical Garden can offer many benefits to water quality and wildlife. It can also help educate the public about the benefits trees provide to society as a whole. As the buffer grows it will create an easily accessible natural space for the public to enjoy. Additionally, this new buffer will not only protect water quality at a local level, it will also count towards the goal of planting more trees as a means to protect water quality within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.”

– Virginia Department of Forestry

Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards

“Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards support The City of Charlottesville and The Botanical Garden of the Piedmont in their reconstruction of a stream, a central feature of the Botanical Garden. The stream area, with a length of 820 feet, has huge, eroded banks, caused by storms and the area is seriously dangerous for walkers. Erosion issues will only get worse without efforts to re-channel the curves and insert flood slowing systems which engineers have designed.”

– Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards

WHAT is happening?

A contractor has been secured by the City of Charlottesville and will begin to reshape the stream, stabilize the stream bank, restore the plant community that lives around the stream and maintain the health of the stream going forward. You can expect to see numerous large machines and see piles of debris before the repairs will become evident.

WHEN will this take place?

The construction will begin in early November and is expected to last for six to nine months. During this time, several Garden trails will be closed, so check the website or kiosk for specific information.

HOW MANY trees will be impacted?

Approximately 70 trees will be removed to allow for the stream work to be accomplished. Once completed, The City of Charlottesville has committed to planting 158 trees and 685 shrubs, and BGP has committed to planting an additional 44 trees and 93 shrubs – nearly 1,000 in total!

Stream Reforestation
Stream Reforestation
Stream Reforestation

Thanks to a grant from the Bama Works Fund at CACF the Garden now has signs which explain the stream restoration process on site. You can find them on the path by the railroad tracks close to the stream. Part of the Stream Restoration Educational Program, these signs provide important details about why stream health and clean water are important, what factors impact stream health, and how the restoration will occur.

Additional information about the project and the design of the stream may be found at this link: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/28dcc35f534e4ddcac5d26d934f0488a