riparian buffer

Building Partnerships Through Community Greening

Students from Newark High School planting trees and shrubs along the White Clay Creek.

Students from Newark High School planting trees and shrubs along the White Clay Creek.

On a blustery Saturday morning, November 21, the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic Rivers Program sponsored a habitat planting at Curtis Mill Park in Newark, DE. Thirty local volunteers, including students from Newark High School’s Nature Society and AP Environmental Science course, assisted in planting 100 native trees and shrubs along the banks of the main stem of White Clay.

An increased presence of native plants in the buffer zone and floodplain provide numerous valuable services to the natural environment. Some of these services include the creation of habitat, shelter, and food for wildlife. The plants are also vital to stream health because they capture, infiltrate, and treat polluted runoff from adjacent Papermill Road. The planting area, which is part of the public park, will also contribute benefits to park visitors of all ages through improved aesthetics of the streamside landscape.

Planting additional layers of vegetation (shrubs and understory trees) where the wet meadow meets the exiting tree line provides additional habitat diversity for a variety of wildlife. As it matures it will also buffer the forest edge from the invasion of aggressive non-native species such as Morrow's honeysuckle, and multi-flora rose.

Planting additional layers of vegetation (shrubs and understory trees) where the wet meadow meets the exiting tree line provides additional habitat diversity for a variety of wildlife. As it matures it will also buffer the forest edge from the invasion of aggressive non-native species such as Morrow's honeysuckle, and multi-flora rose.

Bob McDowell, a teacher at Newark High School and a handful of his students played an integral role in the success of the planting. Mr. McDowell is the instructor of the school’s Advanced Placement Environmental Science course and was pleased to have more than 20 of his students participating in the event. Bob indicated that many of the topics that he covers in his classes had practical applications to the planting. Riparian buffers, floodplains, and conservation techniques are just a few of the concepts he hoped were conveyed to his students.

Through this hands-on experience, I hope the students gain an appreciation of the natural ecology of Newark. I hope that years down the road, some of these students can return to the park and remember how they influenced their community landscape in a positive way.
— Bob McDowell, Newark High School Faculty

During the planting, some students were able to observe the influence of the centuries-long historic industrial land-use of the site, which was formerly occupied by the Curtis Paper Mill. While digging, some uncovered old metal scraps, remnants of the past use of this site. Other site constraints related to it’s location in an urbanized part of the White Clay, include a sewer main that bisects the floodplain. The mature size of the plantings and their locations, had to be carefully selected and placed to not interfere with the sewer easement. A wetland meadow of low growing native plants was seeded in the floodplain after construction and is evidenced by the dark green rushes and yellow-green sedges. These ground cover plants will provide food and cover in areas where larger species needed to be avoided.

Bob McDowell is also a member of the City of Newark Conservation Advisory Committee. Through his partnership with the City of Newark, he hopes to foster future community conservation projects with his students on city property that would similarly benefit from stream cleanups, or habitat plantings.His group is planning to return to Curtis Mill Park in the spring to carry out additional reforestation with native plant species.

These types of partnerships are exactly what we like to encourage between today’s youth, municipalities, and conservation groups. They provide our future leaders with the knowledge and the tools to solve real world problems - and give them the opportunity to be a part of the solution. Conservation landscaping is just one of those tools that not only benefits wildlife and water quality, but also the community as a whole.
— Shane Morgan, Watershed Coordinator for the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic Program

Funding for this project came out of the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic River Restoration Fund set up for Delaware taxpayers who claim an over payment of taxes, or who have an income tax liability, to designate an amount to be deposited or paid to the Fund. Over the past four years, this Fund has raised just under $25,000 for water resource restoration and management programs within the White Clay Creek watershed, Delaware’s only federally designated wild and scenic river. More specifically, these funds have and will continue to support projects such as dam removals (for fish passage), freshwater mussel restoration and research, and conservation landscaping.

Click to view additional photos from the planting.

A Needed Stream Improvement for a Beloved Community Park!

A Needed Stream Improvement for a Beloved Community Park!

Parks play an important role in managing water in the community. They offer opportunities to showcase good land use practices by providing an easy, low cost way to engage visitors and illustrate the value of green spaces. This year New Garden Township is leading by example utilizing open space in their Township Park to showcase Best Management Practices (BMPs) ...

Open Space and Water Quality: Partners for Life

Slide1What do open space preservation, habitat restoration, and public awareness all have in common? The answer is simple. They are active concepts, that when put together in practice can help sustain good water quality in our local streams and rivers. The story of the Landenberg Junction Trail Restoration project is a great example that shows some of the ways these efforts are being implemented for the benefit of local residents and the White Clay Creek.

In December 2012, White Clay Creek Wild & Scenic Program contributed funds to assist New Garden Township with the purchase of the 1.2-acre Hendrickson Property. Following the land purchase, it was subsequently determined that the integrity of the historic structure occupying the site, familiarly known as the Hendrickson House, was too compromised to be saved. Therefore, the structure was removed in order to extend trails along the White Clay Creek for greater public access and benefit; approximately 3,500 square feet of impervious surface (surfaces that do not allow water to penetrate) was removed and replaced with native plants, which will benefit water quality by helping reduce erosion and increase infiltration.

view from bridge LJT 193 KB

The site, located on the eastern bank of the East Branch of the White Clay Creek in the vicinity of present-day Landenberg, has historical roots associated with nineteenth century textile mill and factory development. Two historic rail routes cut through this parcel: the Wilmington and Western, and the Pomeroy and Newark. Thus, the procurement of the land preserves an important part of Landenberg’s rich history.

The site’s acquisition and development, consistent with New Garden Township’s Comprehensive Plan, has been aimed at enhancing access as well as restoring, protecting, and conserving open space public lands. The endeavor also aligns closely with the White Clay Creek Management Plan’s mission to foster a cooperative approach to watershed management; the trailhead is part of the conceptual 17 mile White Clay Loop that will eventually link trails in New Garden Township, Franklin Township, London Grove Township, and London Britain Township. The Landenberg Junction Trail is still under construction, and will open in Spring 2015 (see map below).

Land_Junc_Trail-OpeningBAs a part of the restoration objective, riparian planting commenced at the site in September 2014. A riparian buffer is an area of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation along a stream or river that protects and maintains the integrity of the waterway. Riparian and wetland buffers serve to act as natural filters for streams, and reduce pollutants like sediment, nutrients, and metals, and can help manage and improve water quality. They also succeed in providing wetland habitat to local wildlife, and increasing aesthetic value.volunteers 166KBThe riparian planting event on Saturday September 13, 2014 brought out close to 50 community volunteers at the site who contributed by planting 1,400 native wildflowers, trees, and shrubs. The plant materials were purchased through a Grant provided by PECO’s Green Region Funds to the New Garden Township Open Space Committee. White Clay Wild and Scenic Program, North Creek Nurseries, and Friends of New Garden Trails facilitated the planning and implementation of the buffer planting. Click here to view the full photo gallery for the Landenberg Junction Trail habitat restoration.

Interested in future volunteer events? Join the White Clay Wild and Scenic Programs mailing list by contacting or subscribe to this blog for future volunteer opportunities throughout the White Clay watershed. Looking to volunteer to help build & maintain the construction of the Landenberg Junction Trail or other Township trails? Please contact

Check out some of our highlighted native plants below, and for the serious plant lovers we’ve also included a comprehensive plant list for this project.

Chelone glabra, White Turtlehead and the Baltimore Checkerspot

(Source: North Creek Nurseries)

(Source: Maryland DNR)

(Photo Sources: North Creek Nurseries, and Maryland DNR))

White Turtle Head grows best in moist meadows, stream banks, and swamps. The elegant white flowers bloom in late summer and early fall, and typically grow to a height of about 2-4 feet. White turtle head serves as the primary regional host plant for the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly.

Aesclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed and the Monarch

Swamp Milkweed (Source: North Creek Nurseries)Monarch Butterfly (Source: National Geographic)

(Photo Sources: North Creek Nurseries, and National Geographic)

Swamp Milkweed attracts butterflies of all kinds and its leaves are a preferred food source of Monarch caterpillars. The plant prefers consistently moist soil and the bright pink and red flowers typically appear in June and July.

Complete Landenberg Junction Trail Plant List:

Landscape Plugs- White Wood Aster (Aster divaricatus) Aster Purple Dome (Aster n-a ‘Purple Dome’) Emory’s Sedge (Carex emoryi) Fox Sedge (Carex vulpinoidea) White Turtle Head (Chelone glabra) Southern Eastern Wild Rye (Elymus glabriflorus) Blue Mist Flower (Eupatorium coelestinum) Golden Groundsel (Packera aurea) Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana ‘Pink Manners’) Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

Seed Mix- Showy Tick Trefoil (Desmodium canandense) Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens) Blue Stem Godenrod (Solidago caesia) NY Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) Nodding Bur Marigold (Bidens cernua) New England Aster (Aster Novae-angliae) Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

Shrubs/Trees- Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) Arrow Wood (Viburnum dentatum) Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) Alternate Leaved Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)