Leaf Litter

Biohabitats Projects, Places, and People

Check out the latest Biohappenings, including examples of our work to regenerate urban ecology.

By Amy Nelson

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Regenerating A “Living Shoreline” in New York City

At 2,200 acres, New York City’s Fresh Kills Park will be one of the most ambitious public works projects in the world. Over the next 30 years, the park, formerly home to the world’s largest landfill, will be transformed into an extraordinary setting for cultural and recreational activities through state-of-the-art ecological restoration.

After working with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation on a landscape restoration master plan for the park, Biohabitats and Field Operations http://www.fieldoperations.net/ are now teaming up to restore a narrow strip of actively eroding tidal marsh fringe. Rather than excavate at the site of a former landfill that inevitably must contend with sea level rise, the restoration approach calls for the use of natural materials and clean sand to stabilize the marsh edge and create a mosaic of coastal marsh, grassland and scrub-shrub habitat. The innovative design aims to regenerate a living shoreline. Livingshorelines2.jpg Photo courtesy of Partnership for the Delaware Estuary http://www.delawareestuary.org/index.asp in which coir logs (interwoven coconut fibers that are bound together) and live mussels form a breakwater and allow for increased sedimentation within the marsh. Located a few hundred feet from the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge, http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_your_park/historical_signs/hs_historical_sign.php?id=12298 the project site offers the opportunity to provide important linkage for existing wildlife, as well as critical future habitat to accommodate coastal migration in anticipation of sea level rise. Construction of this restoration is slated for 2011, and we can’t wait to see it come to life. Literally.

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) is hard at work on its master plan to transform the Central Delaware River waterfront in Philadelphia into a vibrant recreational, cultural and commercial waterfront. The plan is a result of the City’s Civic Vision for the Central Delaware and its companion Action Plan for the Central Delaware: 2008-2018. Both documents place strong emphasis on public access and ecological revitalization. In an effort to demonstrate what can be possible once the plan is realized, the DRWC has initiated the Pier 53 project to bring people to the riverfront and highlight the future ecological restoration potential of the area. Biohabitats is thrilled to be leading the design and construction of the Pier 53 project– the creation of a pier-side public park on a one-acre parcel that is currently covered in concrete.

We will be working with a Project Advisory Committee comprised of many local and community stakeholders to design and implement a project that will improve the site landscape and reintroduce residents of South Philadelphia to the riverfront. We are also working with the Philadelphia Horticultural Society to provide opportunities for the public to be active in the process. The concept involves replacing impervious surfaces with woodland stands, meadows and native grasses; improving an existing trail to maximize the visitor experience; installing interpretive signage to educate visitors about the ecological function and restoration of the river; and integrating artistic interpretations of natural processes throughout the site (through public art, design of amenities, etc.). The project is slated for construction by the end of summer 2010.

Wetland Creates Catalytic Effect For South Euclid, OH

Built in the early 1960s as a traditional “dry pond,” the Langerdale detention basin in South Euclid, OH confined a segment of Nine Mile Creek to a concrete channel. Recognizing the value of the creek as a tributary to Lake Erie and a critical component of the community’s green infrastructure, the City of South Euclid launched an effort to restore this urban stream, beginning with a retrofit of the detention basin. Working closely with the City, Biohabitats developed a design to transform the basin into a wetland that would maximize storage volume and augment aquatic habitat. By replacing two acres of turf that required constant mowing with a complex wetland system that provides a safe haven for birds, pollinators and mammals, the retrofit will also help the City reduce the time, effort and cost of the site’s long-term maintenance. With construction complete, the newly transformed wetland is benefitting the ecology and the people of South Euclid.

“The retrofit has attracted much positive attention in the region and the marsh is now a haven for birders and environmentalists,” said Sally Martin, Housing Manager for the City of South Euclid. According to Sally, the project has also stimulated cultural and economic vitality. “We have seen a new business develop (the Sanctuary on the Green) that features views of the marsh as an attractive amenity,” she continued. “We were able to obtain grant funds to launch the Green Neighborhoods Initiative—an innovative approach to managing vacant and abandoned housing utilizing green building techniques and sustainable storm water practices. I believe the success of our grant applications was greatly enhanced by the success of the Nine Mile Creek Retrofit project.” Who knew that a system comprised of an aquatic bed and open water wetland, scrub-shrub emergent wetland, forested wetland, riparian deciduous forest and native mesic meadow could mean so much to people? We did.

22 Miles Of Historic Railway To Become Green Belt Around Atlanta Atlanta.jpg

The Atlanta BeltLine is one of the most comprehensive economic development efforts ever undertaken in the City of Atlanta and the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment currently underway in the U.S. The BeltLine will combine greenspace, trails, parks, transit, public art, historic preservation and new development along 22 miles of historic rail segments that encircle the city’s urban core.

At the helm of this high-profile, $2.8 billion redevelopment effort is Atlanta BeltLine Inc. (ABI), an affiliate of the Atlanta Development Authority. Biohabitats is proud to be a member of a team led by Perkins+Will and James Corner Field Operations, (designer of New York’s High Line) that was recently selected by ABI to design the 22-mile BeltLine Corridor. We look forward to applying our expertise in ecological restoration, low impact design and invasive species management to this visionary project. We will also help the team integrate sustainability initiatives into its many components. With this ambitious project, Atlanta stands to become a model for sustainable growth and redevelopment that embraces urban ecology. We think that’s just peachy. 

Restoring Streams In Our Nation’s Capital

Administered by the National Park Service, Rock Creek Park is an extremely popular venue for Washingtonian bikers, hikers, birders, runners, skaters and visitors. A natural oasis amidst a highly urbanized landscape, the park is also home to many degraded streams. Biohabitats is currently helping the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) restore two of them. Our approach in these design/build efforts is to apply a regenerative stormwater conveyance approach. This involves raising the channel bed and reconnecting the stream with its floodplain and riparian wetlands to optimizes the conversion of stormwater to groundwater and reduce its erosive energies. Our designs will also minimize damage to trees, and incorporate felled trees into in-stream structures.

We are also working with DDOE to retrofit three storm drain outfalls feeding directly into Pope’s Branch, eroding its banks and deteriorating water quality. To provide stable conveyance of storm flows and water quality treatment, the outfalls are being redesigned using a regenerative stormwater conveyance approach, which involves the use of infiltrating soils to naturally capture stormwater and slowly filter it so that it is of higher quality when it is returned back to the groundwater table. All three retrofits are intended to be demonstration projects for DDOE.

In addition, we are helping to improve water quality within Pope Creek as part of a 5,000 linear foot sewer line rehabilitation project for the DC Water and Sewer Authority. We were brought into this project by Black & Veatch to prepare a stream restoration design that will stabilize the stream, reconnect it to its historic floodplain, enhance riparian vegetation, wetlands and in-stream habitat and improve water quality. The project also involves protection of a rare Atlantic white cedar/bald cypress bog at the downstream end of the site.


Environmental Scientist Suzanne Hoehne will present “Big Creek Watershed Stormwater Management Improvement, Cleveland, Ohio (Case Study)” at the Second Annual Chapter Meeting of the Midwest-Great Lakes Society for Ecological Restoration International  http://www.ser.org/content/SERMWGL.asp in Madison, WI on April 9-10.

If you’re looking for Landscape Architect Allegra Bukojemsky and Water Resources Engineer Ted Brown during the week of April 11, you may find them running back and forth between the poster display area and the breakout rooms at the 2010 International Low Impact Development Conference http://content.asce.org/conferences/lid10/index.html in San Francisco. The theme of this year’s conference is “Redefining Water in the City” and we certainly have a lot to share on that topic. Ted will present “Replacing Incised Headwater Channels and Failing Stormwater Infrastructure with Regenerative Stormwater Conveyance” while Allegra will be on hand to present her posters, “Green Infrastructure at All Scales, from Planning to Site Design” and “Regenerative Design Strategies For Urban Stormwater Retrofits.” Posters on “Integrating LID Approaches into University and College Campus Master Plans” and “An Adaptable Process for Identifying and Qualifying Stormwater Retrofits” by Water Resources Engineer Jennifer Zielinski will also be on display.

Water Resources Engineer Ted Brown will be in Providence, RI on May 16-20 to present “Regenerative Stormwater Conveyance: An Innovative Approach to Meet a Range of Stormwater Management and Ecological Goals” at the 2010 World Environmental & Water Resources Congress http://content.asce.org/conferences/ewri2010/.

Landscape Architect Allegra Bukojemsky will present an update on the Sustainable Sites Initiative http://www.sustainablesites.org/ at the 17th Annual Conference of the California Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration http://www.sercal.org/conference.htm on May 19-22 in Mammoth Lakes, CA.

Biohabitats president Keith Bowers will be participating in and giving a workshop at The Restoration Institute http://www.uvcs.uvic.ca/eco/, an international forum to share knowledge on areas of emerging importance in the field of ecological restoration. Hosted by the School of Environmental Studies and the Division of Continuing Studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, the Institute runs May 26-30. This year’s theme is Coastal Ecosystem Restoration. The program consists of field trips, skill specific workshops, short courses, presentations, panel discussions, poster papers and a master class.

Biohabitats is pleased to be a Silver Sponsor of the Ohio Stormwater Conference, http://www.ohioswa.com/conf_home.php which will be held in Sandusky, Ohio on June 10-11. If you plan to attend, don’t miss presentations by Great Lakes Bioregion leader Ivette Bolender, Water Resources Engineer (and conference planning committee member!) Jennifer Zielinski and Senior Ecologist Joe Berg. At break time, be sure to stop by our booth and say hello.


We’re pleased to welcome Water Resources Engineer Vince DeCapio to the Biohabitats team. A native son of New Jersey with an affinity for fluid mechanics, he eagerly plunged into our work in the Hudson River Bioregion. Vince has over four years of engineering experience and holds an M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from West Virginia University. Drawn to Biohabitats by the opportunity to combine science and creativity to address the ecological challenges of today and tomorrow, Vince looks forward to masterminding innovative solutions based on his rigorous modeling. Not one to simply talk the talk, Vince also aspires to become a self-sufficient, urban homesteader, and is already working on his home garden. We can’t wait to see what sprouts up under his watch.

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