In 2010, the Brandywine Conservancy received an Environmental Stewardship Fund grant for a multi-site restoration effort in the Brandywine Creek watershed. The restoration consisted of three demonstration projects in the watershed’s urban, suburban, and headwater portions. The goal of the demonstrations was to leverage the Conservancy’s existing visibility and inspire similar projects on private and municipal property.
The largest portion of the restoration, which received matching funds from the City of Wilmington, involved protecting streams on several Amish-owned farms in Honey Brook and West Caln townships. The Brandywine River in Wilmington, Delaware is a source of drinking water for the city. Historically, grazing livestock have had a negative effect on downstream water quality by eroding streambanks and introducing bacteria and excessive nutrients into the headwater streams. To combat this effect, the Conservancy installed fencing along the banks of several tributaries to prevent livestock from entering the channel and created stream crossings. To further improve water quality, the Conservancy planted riparian buffers along the streams to filter nutrient-laden runoff from the farms.
The Conservancy also spearheaded a project in Coatesville to add vegetation to two sections of streambank along impaired sections of Brandywine Creek’s west branch. City-owned sites were reforested with native tree and shrub species. These riparian plantings filter urban runoff that would otherwise enter the creek. This re-vegetation, especially on sensitive steep slopes, reduces nitrogen and phosphorus loads, as well as sediment and bacteria. At the downtown center, where the stream is most visually prominent, tree stock was blended with native shrubs, and balanced riparian restoration with plans for the city’s redevelopment efforts. The restoration enhances the Coatesville’s Riverwalk, a popular multi-purpose trail along the river’s edge.
The third component of the restoration was the reforestation of five acres of riparian open space in the headwaters of Radley Run, an impaired tributary of Brandywine Creek. Volunteers helped Conservancy staff plant riparian buffers composed of native tree and shrub species.
According to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection stream assessment results, Brandywine Creek is listed as impaired, presumably from substantial development. Restoration efforts like this reforestation project reduce the impact of development.