Roslyn Park and the health of the Sandy Run have been transformed over the last four to five years due to three successive riparian buffer plantings. In 2005, Abington Township asked NAM Planning & Design, LLC (NAM) to assess the Sandy Run that flows through Roslyn Park, to define the problem areas and develop a restoration and management plan with specific BMPs to improve the health of the Sandy Run Creek. NAM developed the report, “Roslyn Park Restoration and Management Plan”; the report pinpointed numerous problems associated with the Sandy Run in Roslyn Park, but the most consistent was a limited riparian buffer of 15-20 feet wide on average due to the park’s intensive use as active recreation.
The existing riparian buffer had a high content of invasive trees (white mulberry, Norway maple), shrubs (escaped privet, honeysuckles, Japanese knotweed, multiflora rose, rose of Sharon) and vines (bittersweet, honeysuckle). Native vegetation was struggling to reproduce due to the competition presented by the invasive species that dominated the landscape. NAM advised the township to begin implementation at the upper reaches of the Sandy Run in Roslyn Park and move downstream to restore the riparian buffer, a simple and cost effective restoration technique that would significantly improve the runoff water quality and overall health of the Sandy Run Watershed.
Three consecutive phases of the riparian buffer planting were implemented through a planning grant from The Conservation Foundation and Treevitalize funds. In September 2006, Abington Township successfully implemented Phase 1 of the riparian buffer restoration in the upper reaches of the Sandy Run with help from over 60 local volunteers. Following the Roslyn Park Restoration and Management Plan, the next reach of the Sandy Run Creek, Phase 2 was completed in October 2007. During Phase 2, nearly 50 volunteers restored 50,000 square feet of buffer located on the opposite side of the bank from the Phase 1 project area.
In 2008, for Phase 3 of the riparian buffer restoration, Abington Township continued to adhere to the recommendations outlined in the Roslyn Park Restoration and Management Plan. Under the direction of NAM, approximately 16,000 square feet of the riparian buffer downstream of Phase 2 was replanted with native species. This had been one of the largest areas of invasive vegetation; it was more costly and required more pre-planning time than the previous phases for tasks such as marking the trees to be removed and clearing the area prior to planting. NAM marked trees for removal and oversaw the spraying of other smaller non-native species (these areas were selectively sprayed with a glyphosate herbicide by a licensed herbicide applicator). The township’s public works staff removed some of the fallen trees and left the rest of the woody debris for habitat. Like previous riparian buffer restorations, the restoration intent was to replant with layers of smaller native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses. Some of the new native trees planted in all three phases of the restoration to increase the biodiversity in the watershed include: pawpaw (Asimina ctriloba), redbud (Cercis canadensis), Umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetela), Shingle Oak (Quercus imbricaria) and elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), ironwood, (Carpinus caroliniana), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), red oak (Quercus rubra) and blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica).
Since the project’s inception in 2006, the site has served as an outdoor classroom for Delaware Valley College’s “Ecological Landscape Restoration and Management” class. Students learned how to develop the natural planting patterns under professional supervision, and how to train volunteers in proper restoration planting techniques. Encouraging and educating volunteers was also an important goal throughout the report and riparian plantings; participants have an increased investment in, and subsequently, gain a better understanding of watersheds and natural resources.
An educational sign was placed along the trail adjacent to each phase of the three riparian buffer plantings to inform the public about the importance of these community installed restorations and to herald the success of each phase and the project goals. Each sign explains the site-specific problems and solutions with before and after pictures to demonstrate the significant changes. The signs will continue to educate the general public for years to come as they walk the trails, enjoying both the function and aesthetics of Roslyn Park.
Watershed: Wissahickon Creek
Abington Township Environmental Advisory Council
Nancy Minich, HTR, RLA
NAM Planning & Design, LLC
PO Box 86
Lahaska, PA 18931