Passport to Nature

Restoration in Action

Meadow Creek

Can a severely degraded city stream along Charlottesville's Rivanna Trail be saved?

Next spring, when the sweetbay magnolias (Magnolia virginiana) trees are in bloom and the restoration is complete be sure to add Meadow Creek to your list of great hikes near Charlottesville. The two-mile stretch offers a natural escape in the city – great for families today and for years to come.

By Tom McCann

Heavy machinery has been part of the Meadow Creek landscape all summer, moving dirt and rocks and reshaping this urban stream. This fall, the landscape receives a more traditional feel with the addition of thousands of native trees and shrubs. The tree planting is the next step in the restoration process that began last spring to restore nearly two miles of degraded stream while enhancing water quality, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities for Charlottesville residents.

"We've reached an exciting milestone, planting 19,000 native trees and shrubs this fall,” said Diane Frisbee, project manager with The Nature Conservancy. “The trees and shrubs are part of the long-range plan to make the Meadow Creek corridor work for people interested in hiking, and for wildlife dependent upon healthy soils and vegetation for nourishment and habitat."

This past spring, a walk along the stream revealed plastic bags, tires and shopping carts half submerged in the water, and erosion chewing away at stream banks. Small dams created by dead trees held the trash in place.

Six months later Meadow Creek is a better place for people and nature.

The trash is gone, and the stream has been given a more natural, curving flow – one that will reduce erosion and be able to better handle runoff from bigger rain storms. The project also includes the addition of approximately 40 acres of new city parkland and permanently protects the Rivanna Trail corridor paralleling this section of Meadow Creek.

Charlottesville Vice Mayor Kristin Szakos recognized the significance of the project and its implications on future generations, “As stewards of our urban environment, this restored stream corridor will create a legacy we can be proud to leave to our children.”

The project is led by The Nature Conservancy and the City of Charlottesville, and is funded by the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund. The Trust Fund, administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Conservancy, helps protect and restore wetlands and streams throughout Virginia. The Trust Fund is guided by a rigorous scientific process and pools resources to focus its conservation and restoration on larger projects – like this nearly two mile project in Meadow Creek - that have a greater chance of ecological success.

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