Volunteers Undertake Cattail Creek Restoration

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The Berrywood community was alarmed with the deteriorating water quality in Cattail Creek, which was ranked year after year with the worst water quality of any creek in the Magothy River watershed, according to Bob Royer, a Berrywood resident and volunteer water quality monitor for the Magothy River Association.

The Berrywood Community Association (BCA) saw future development upstream as a further threat to the water quality and destruction of habitat for fish and wildlife such as yellow perch and the great blue heron, which make Berrywood their home.

Molly LaChapelle, a long-time Berrywood resident, became a Master Watershed Steward through AAWSA and wanted to take on the restoration of Cattail Creek as her project. LaChapelle recognized that this would be a very large and complex project that would require significant effort to fully engage the community to be successful. LaChapelle was fully aware of previous attempts to initiate a restoration project in the community that did not gain the necessary support to launch the program and was confident that with her recent WSA training, she would overcome those challenges “It’s a very versatile, broad training,” explained LaChapelle. “A large aspect of the Master Watershed Stewards program is leadership training and energizing your community to support any effort. I saw that class as a way to educate myself, make connections and use it as a base to get a project started.”

Empowered by her new role as a steward, LaChapelle in 2015 started looking for grant opportunities that could fund her restoration project. At an AAWSA event, LaChapelle met a representative from Maryland Department of Natural Resources who said that their project would be a good fit for their funds. Chesapeake Bay Trust, Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works and Maryland DNR provided the funds in 2016, and Underwood & Associates was awarded the design and construction of the stream restoration.

Construction of the restoration site began in October 2018 with a three-part approach.

First was the installation of a regenerative stormwater conveyance system, which includes raising the creek bed to increase floodplain connectivity and uses weirs to slow down and widen the stream flow and reduce erosion.

Second was removal of the bulkhead along the marina, replacing it with a living shoreline surrounded by several large bio-retention areas.

Third was the construction of several rain gardens to capture and treat runoff from a nearby access road, parking lot and basketball court.

“It’s really expanded and enhanced the area so that families and kids will be able to come down and have a very inviting place to enjoy the creek,” explained LaChapelle. “We’re lucky that it runs through our community. It’s a great spot to enjoy nature.”

Underwood and Associates was able to finish most of the major construction by the end of December. They wanted to get the project done before February, when yellow perch spawn in the creek and construction is prohibited. Plantings will be installed this spring. “I’ve been impressed with AAWSA’s ability to bring folks together,” said Zoe Clarkwest, a restoration coordinator who helped manage the project for AAWSA, “and with the speed of the project’s completion.”

Royer added, “This project has already made a big difference in the community, and it's all about connections. The restoration successfully reconnected the stream back to the floodplain, and in doing so, reconnected the people in the in the community back to their stream. They are excited when they see clear running water even after a heavy storm.

“The restoration will be a teaching opportunity for members of the community to become better stewards of the environment by increasing their awareness of the critical importance of planting native and pollinator-friendly plants in their own gardens, saving their tall canopy trees and forested areas, minimizing their use of fertilizer and pesticides and managing their stormwater through use of bio-retention areas and rain gardens.”

Clarkwest believes the lasting impacts of this project for Berrywood will be more than improved water quality. “I’ve seen how the project has motivated and galvanized this community around the issue of water quality and the broader issue of development,” she explained. “They have increased awareness and knowledge, but more than that, they are capable of making an impact.”

The Berrywood community is planning an Earth Day planting day on April 22. Hundreds of native shrubs and trees will be planted in the woodlands and along the living shoreline as the final phase of the restoration work.

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