Leaf Litter

Biohabitats Projects, Places, & People

Catch up on the latest news from Biohabitats.


Wetlands Refresh Utah’s Oldest Park

For more than 130 years, Liberty Park has been a popular retreat for the people of Salt Lake City. Now, it is poised to become just as popular for wildlife. Liberty Lake occupies nearly a quarter of the park’s 100 acres.  While the lake’s main function is recreational such as paddle boats and feeding the ducks, it also functions as a stormwater detention pond. Emigration Creek and Red Butte Creek both flow into the lake. In 2010, the lake suffered severe impacts from an oil pipeline spill in Red Butte Creek. Although the lake was thoroughly cleaned, it still suffered from poor water quality.


Article Index

Floating wetland with emergent vegetation

Biohabitats helped the Salt Lake City Division of Parks and Public Lands restore vitality to the lake by establishing a native, emergent wetland and willow shrubland around its edge, creating floating wetlands, and improving the vegetative composition of an existing island. Community input, gathered through a series of public meetings, informed the restoration design, which featured interpretive signage created in collaboration with the nearby Tracy Aviary.

Planting was just completed at the end of August.  While waterfowl exclusion fencing has been installed to protect the young plants, we look forward to seeing native birds such as the great blue heron or snowy egret.The new wetland system also helps clean stormwater runoff and provides a new way to experience and enjoy Liberty Lake.

Park to Become Stopping Point for People & Pollinators

The current site of South Carolina’s Stono River County Park was once slated to be a dense residential development right on the edge of a salt marsh, but the economic crisis became a boon to Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) when the development plans were scrapped and the property ended up in foreclosure.  Local Charleston philanthropists generously purchased and donated the land to the CCPRC in 2013.

for leaf litter marsh view_stonoSM

Marsh at the Stono River County Park site

Biohabitats worked on a team with Stantec and the CCPRC to develop the master plan for the new park.  The site is 83 acres, dominated by a tidal salt marsh that features two islands.  One of the most important features of the site is its proximity to the West Ashley greenway, which currently terminates in an uninspiring gravel lot behind a sign company. The master plan includes passive recreation opportunities such as paddling and bird-watching, and a true trailhead designed to increase interest in the greenway, including signage, secure parking, and a restroom. After contributing to a baseline ecological assessment of the site, Biohabitats helped develop concepts for enriching its value to plants and wildlife. Biohabitats recommended a pollinator garden or habitat demonstration meadow that would both provide valuable resources to resident and migrating pollinators and serve as an inspiration to visitors for adding to the habitat value of their own land. Biohabitats also identified management needs and opportunities such as making the site’s vernal pools even better habitat for amphibians and placing bluebird boxes at an appropriate distance for the trail system.

A Library of Environmental Site Design (Literally)


A stormplanter in the library courtyard is enjoyed by visitors of all ages

Every drop of rain that falls at the Savage Branch and Stem Education Center, a branch of the Howard County, MD library system, goes on a journey that ultimately ends in the Chesapeake Bay. When County officials planned to renovate the branch, they wanted to be sure the site did its part to improve the quality of water on that journey. They envisioned the site as a model for best practices for stormwater treatment  and a place to support the County’s STEM curriculum. Biohabitats helped the County realize this vision by crafting a design which distributes stormwater to multiple treatment points and uses natural, vegetated systems, porous paving, and cisterns to store runoff and filter pollutants from the water before it flows off site. These techniques, which mimic natural hydrologic conditions by retaining and slowly releasing runoff close to the source, not only clean polluted water, but help restore natural flow patterns. The site’s most unique feature is a multi-tiered “stormplanter,” comprised of interconnected cells containing native wetland plants and lined with bench seating. The planter captures stormwater from the building’s roof, filters it through the wetland cells, and allows clean water to soak into the soil. A hand pump provides library customers of all ages with the opportunity to draw filtered water from the planter and send it along a concrete flume reminiscent of the nearby historic Savage Mill.

Seeding the Future of Wastewater Treatment

Installing a rootwad and snag at Fernhill Wetlands

In the last issue of Leaf Litter, environmental scientist Katie Bohren about Fernhill Wetlandsin Forest Grove, Oregon, where Clean Water Services, the local utility, is creating a place of inspiration, wonder, and…wastewater treatment. We had a busy summer helping Clean Water Services prepare to transform three former sewage lagoons into a rich mosaic of riparian wetlands that will improve the ecological function of this section of the Tualatin River floodplain. The new “South Wetlands” will be a natural treatment system that cools treated effluent from the Forest Grove wastewater treatment facility through a series of emergent wetland cells before discharging to the Tualatin River. Over the next two months, more than 3.2 billion seeds will be spread on the site! Rootwads and snags will also be installed, along with more than 750,000 herbaceous plugs, stakes, and bareroot shrubs and trees.

Restoring ecology in one of the nation’s earliest planned communities

Before (insert) and after.

Before  the restoration (insert) and today.

In 1967, one of the nation’s first master planned communities opened: Columbia, Maryland. More than 45 years later, Columbia continues to be a thriving and engaging community in Maryland’s fastest growing county.   Over most of its history, Columbia’s downtown core has been structured around a shopping mall.  But a new vision and plan are being implemented.  Downtown Columbia is being transformed into a a true City in the Garden, as mixed use buildings are replacing parking lots, while existing open space is being conserved and restored.  As a key member of the master planning team, Biohabitats helped establish a sustainability plan and environmental restoration goals. One such goal was to restore 5000 feet of a degraded tributary to the Little Patuxent River. The stream had suffered from years of conveying uncontrolled stormwater runoff from a sea of impervious area throughout the watershed. Working closely with the Howard Hughes Corporation, we crafted a plan to restore ecological function, stability, and resilience of the tributary. With 1,000 linear feet of stream now restored, we  are designing the remaining stream reaches so that the channels and adjacent floodplain act in concert to mitigate storm flows, limit erosion, restore wetlands and improve both water quality and habitat.  The restored stream corridor will improve life for Columbia residents and visitors by creating quiet, natural open space for passive recreation. It will also create necessary habitat for fish and wildlife in an ever urbanizing landscape between Washington, DC to Baltimore.

Powerful Partnershp Benefits Oregon’s Bronson Creek

Bronson1Public utilities and municipal agencies, each with their own goals and budgets, can sometimes find themselves at odds. But when they join forces, as Clean Water Services and the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District (THPRD) did to enhance the floodplain of Bronson Creek in Beaverton, Oregon, amazing things can happen. Through this unique partnership, THPRD gave CWS a no cost easement to perform revegetation work to improve water quality and gain additional shade credits for their NPDES permit. We are helping CWS and THPRD install large woody debris structures– More than 150 rootwads and 250 vertical pin pile logs–among the beaver dams within the floodplain.  Given the prevailing saturated soils, we are using steel plates to provide access for low ground pressure excavators.  These log structures will not only help reconnect Bronson Creek with its floodplain and distribute flood flows over the floodplain; they will also provide habitat complexity and improved water quality. This winter, CWS will revegetate the 10-acre site, adding even more habitat.


EcoDistricts Summit, a global event dedicated to regenerating cities from the neighborhood up” will take place in Washington, DC September 24-26. If you’re attending, don’t miss Pete Muñoz and Doug Streaker’s mobile workshop on “Creating ecologically dynamic infrastructure in urban communities.”

We are delighted to sponsor Hammers and Ales on September 27, a fundraiser for the Baltimore Community ToolBank, an organization that lends tools to charitable organizations to increase the impact of their volunteer efforts in the community. If you plan to be in the Baltimore area and would like to attend, be sure to purchase your ticket before they run out!

This year’s Chesapeake Watershed Forum will take place September 26-28 in Shepherdstown, WV. Biohabitats senior ecologist Joe Berg will present a talk on “Regenerative Design for Waterway Improvement.”

From September 30-October 2, America’s Watershed Initiative Summit will bring together key private, public, and non-profit sector stakeholders to improve governance of the Mississippi Watershed. Biohabitats Senior ecologist Suzanne Hoehne is pleased to be one of them. She will co-lead a pre-conference work session for the Ohio River Basin Alliance Restoration and Protection workgroup.

The sixth Passaic River Symposium will take place October 9-10 in Montclair, NJ. Biohabitats Hudson River Bioregion Leader, Terry Doss will present a talk on “Utilizing Vacant Lands to Address Ecosystem Service Deficiencies.” Don’t miss it!

If you are heading to the Big Easy October 22-23 for the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo you are in for a couple of treats. And we’re not talking about the beignets. Senior engineer Pete Munoz will present “Net-Zero Nutrients – Crowdsourcing the Next Metric” and engineer Erin English will deliver a talk on “District System Benefits and Barriers: Learning From a Complex Example.”

What restoration milestones can be expected from an urban river restoration project? What does better look like for an urban river system?  Find out on October 23, when Biohabitats president Keith Bowers co-leads a session at this year’s Bronx River Symposium.

A large contingent of Biohabitats team members will be at the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Annual Meeting and Expo in Denver, CO November 21-24. On day one, Biohabitats Southern Rocky Mountain Bioregion leader Claudia Browne will co-lead a walking tour of sustainably-minded Fort Colllins, which includes local brewery tours and tastings.  During the meeting, Keith Bowers, Claudia Browne, Jennifer Dowdell, Michael Spina, Andi Rutherford, Nicole Stern, Erin English, and Chris Streb will present on a range of topics including urban waterfronts, net zero design, ancient forms of green infrastructure e also look forward to talking with participants about Biohabitats’ unique culture and practice as part of ASLA’s Inside the LA Studio series.


Rob von Rohr, Senior Engineer, Southwest Basin & Range Bioregion Leader

Rob von Rohr

In a way, leading one of Biohabitats’ bioregional offices is like being a telemark skier. It requires the ability to maintain balance, take risks, deftly shift direction when necessary, and make smart decisions in both man-made and back-country environments. Fortunately, Rob von Rohr, the new leader of our Southwest Basin and Range office, is a former nationally ranked telemark ski racer. In addition to those skills, he brings more than 20 years of experience to the Biohabitats team. Rob is eager to apply his expertise in Low Impact Design and natural systems for wastewater treatment to help us bring integrated water strategies to more communities in the arid Southwest. Before joining Biohabitats, Rob lived in Oregon, where he was able to fuel two passions: helping clients implement natural wastewater treatment systems, and surfing. Though he’ll be hard pressed to any surf in Santa Fe, Rob knows that his new post offers ample opportunity to channel not only his professional skills, but his joie de vivre by returning to the Land of Enchantment where he lived before Oregon. In fact, if you’re looking for Rob in the off hours, try checking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Rio Grand,Brazos Wilderness, or Chama River, where you’ll likely find him hiking, mountain biking, or camping.

Bryan Arvai



Got an idea?

Contact The Editor

Sign up for Leaf Litter

Browse by topic

Browse by year