The Riparian Zone
You can find the riparian zone in High School Park along Tookany Creek in the lower level of the park. Storm water diverted to the creek has severely eroded its banks, creating a channel with very steep sides. The riparian zone in High School Park is found on these steep banks, and is home to a group of plants and animals which thrive along the water's edge.
The vegetation which grows along the creek's banks composes the riparian buffer and plays a vital role in helping to keep the water of the creek clean. By absorbing storm water and holding tight to the soil, they reduce storm water runoff, filter out pollutants, control erosion, and stabilize the creek's banks. Native plants, which are adapted to growing in the riparian zone, such as jewel weed and black willow, withstand periodic flooding and wet soils.
Walking along the riparian zone in High School Park you will see native trees such as river birch, black willow, and sycamore; native shrubs such as silky dogwood and elderberry; and native perennial plants such as jewel weed and cinnamon fern. These plants provide important wildlife habitat and offer shade that modulates the water temperatures for the sunfish that live in the creek. Northern brown water snakes, snapping turtles, and red-backed salamanders live here, along with birds such as kingfishers and little green herons.
The riparian zone is threatened by exotic, invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed and lesser celandine, which crowd out native plants and damage this important ecosystem because they do not provide the habitat that native animals and birds need to thrive. The riparian zone is also threatened by the large volumes of storm water that flood this area and are causing erosion and instability of the stream bank.
Friends of High School Park plans to repair and restore the riparian zone. Our restoration plan calls for reshaping the slope to redirect the water towards the center of the stream, and replanting the shoreline with native shrubs, perennials and seed mixtures suited to this moist environment. We will also create a "living fence" using stakes made from cuttings of the branches of native woody plants. These stakes, and the roots that sprout from them, will help buffer the flow of water and stabilize the banks.