RESTORING AN URBAN OASIS: BROWNS CREEK
NOV 2018 - JULY 2022
Nashville is home to an abundance of wonderful streams, some of which often go unseen by the public! One of our backyard favorites is Browns Creek.
The headwaters of Browns Creek flow through parts of Green Hills and eventually converge at the intersection of Interstate 440 and Interstate 65. Browns Creek then flows past the Nashville Fairgrounds, Trevecca Nazarene University, and the downtown warehouse district before emptying into the Cumberland River. Urban and suburban development can wreak havoc on local streams like Browns Creek, resulting in what scientists refer to as the “urban stream syndrome”.
Through a grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Nonpoint Source Pollution Program and in partnership with Nashville’s Metro Water Services, the Cumberland River Compact completed phase one of a multi phase plan to remediate streams within the Browns Creek Watershed and remove stream impairments such as pathogens, excessive nutrients, and habitat alterations. This multi-phase approach to cleaning up the Browns Creek watershed is crucial to help coordinate restoration efforts and green infrastructure installation so that each component works together to address impairments holistically.
Phase one of this project was focused on the West Fork Browns Creek and the Middle Fork Browns Creek and included three major components: restoration, green infrastructure, and education.
Minor Bank Stabilization & Riparian Buffer Plantings
Restoration activities during phase one included minor bank stabilization and riparian buffer plantings. Bank stabilization halts erosion and stabilizes stream banks to reduce sediment loads. Riparian buffer plantings protect stream banks from erosion, filter out pollutants, and provide habitat.
The Compact performed restoration work along three bank stabilization sites on the Middle Fork of Browns Creek. Coir matting and cedar revetments were used to stabilize the banks along the first two sites. These materials form a sort of biodegradable mesh along erosion sites to protect the bank from further erosion and capture sediment in the stream, eventually rebuilding the bank with soil and vegetation. The third site was eroding due to a dam consisting of stone substrate, which severely altered the flow of Browns Creek. This material was shifted to reconnect the severed stream channel and prevent additional erosion from channel widening due to the altered flow of the creek.
Altogether, over 400 feet of stream were stabilized during the Spring of 2021.
In conjunction with restoration, a large component of this project was the implementation of green infrastructure to help reduce stresses on streams from stormwater runoff. In June of 2021, the Compact “depaved” over 18,000 square feet of impervious surface along Browns Creek, across from the Nashville Fairgrounds. This was accomplished by over one hundred volunteers from the community and the Holy Family Catholic Church who vigorously worked to remove chunks of asphalt with pry bars, shovels, and pickaxes.
Read more about this Depave event here.
The Compact also connected with Glendale Baptist Church to install two large bioretention cells on their property to capture stormwater runoff from their parking lot and roof.
The Compact also installed five dog waste bag stations to complement the bioretention projects and encourage residents to properly dispose of their pets’ waste, as pet waste left in a yard or park contributes to pathogen levels in local streams.
To complement the restoration activities, the Compact also targeted residents in this watershed with educational information about aquatic ecosystems, nonpoint source pollution, and stream-friendly practices that can be accomplished at home. We hosted two virtual educational talks to discuss urban stormwater issues, green infrastructure, and restoration activities commonly performed to help remediate a watershed.
The Compact also hosted a walk-and-talk of Browns Creek with students at Lipscomb Academy High School to discuss green infrastructure and threats to the watershed.
The final educational aspect of this project included three volunteer stream cleanups to remove trash and other human-made debris from the West Fork and Middle Fork of Browns Creek. These cleanups were opportunities to educate volunteers about nonpoint source pollution and strategies to become better stream stewards at home.
This concludes phase one of the Browns Creek Watershed Based Plan to restore Browns Creek and its tributaries. As part of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Nonpoint Source Pollution Program, the Cumberland River Compact has published a Watershed Based Plan outlining all the work that is needed to remediate all streams within the Browns Creek Watershed.
You can find the Watershed Based Plan here.
There are three other phases slated to complete the total plan. Typically phases are completed in two to three year increments, and total completion of the plan is anticipated between 2026 and 2030. Stay tuned for updates on the next phases of the project!