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Stream Stewardship and Tacos at Fairfield Community Center

We know about pairing popcorn and a movie, but have you tried tacos and stream stewardship? On July 19th, folks gathered at Fairfield Community Center to learn how to be Stream Wise while enjoying a taco dinner. During the dinner, Mel Auffredou and Dorothy Kinney-Landis of Franklin County NRCD presented on stream stewardship, how we can best steward our streams, how healthy streams promote flood resiliency, wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreation, and the Stream Wise initiative.

Stream Wise is an initiative created by the Lake Champlain Basin Program, which engages streamside property owners in the Lake Champlain Basin to enhance and protect vegetated stream buffers, increasing flood resiliency and benefiting water quality and natural habitat. Through the initiative, partnering organizations including Franklin County Natural Resources Conservation District provide free on-site consultations to streamside landowners, providing guidance on how to best steward our streams.

After the assessment, landowners receive a report documenting site conditions, and outlining best management practices and areas for improved management. In some cases, improvements may include planting trees along a stream or river to increase the width of the woody buffer, or the area directly adjacent to the stream. These trees provide numerous services to the stream and streamside ecosystem, including holding soil in place and reducing erosion with their immense root structures, and shading streams which keeps water temperatures cool. In other cases, recommendations may include guiding gutter downspouts to an area where the water can infiltrate into soils, reducing erosion and slowing down water.

For properties that meet the minimum criteria to be Stream Wise, landowners receive an award sign, which they can showcase on their property.

After the taco dinner at the event on June 19th, attendees joined Franklin County NRCD staff for an assessment of the Fairfield Community Center property. The property includes the community center, neighboring meeting house, recreational field, playground, and outdoor gathering space. It is a property used by many in the community, gathering for community meals, summer camps, concerts, baseball games, and much more. The Black Creek passes along the south side of the property, separated from the developed areas by a wide vegetated buffer with mature boxelders, elms, willows and dense understory vegetation.

To avoid walking through swaths of stinging nettle and down steep slopes to the floodplain, event attendees viewed the stream from the bridge on Mill St. From this vantage we could see woody debris in the Black Creek, which helps slow the water down, reducing its erosive forces. Our assessment also brought us to a patch of invasive knotweed, where we continued an earlier conversation on invasive management strategies. The tour ended with looking at upland runoff and how stormwater from developed areas moves across the landscape.

After the assessment, Dorothy did a more in-depth investigation of the buffer. This revealed an abundance of species growing in the understory, including Canada lily, sensitive fern, stinging nettles, Joe-Pye weed, and Water Forget-me-not. Despite looking for signs of erosion caused by upland runoff, none could be found. In fact, the only noticeable erosion was caused by Dorothy almost falling in the creek but digging her heels into the bank to avoid submersion.

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