By Andrea Cordle
To protect the Big Darby Creek Watershed, Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District purchased Hellbranch Meadows in 2008. The 200-acre property is in Prairie Township, south of Sunset Cemetery.
According to Kyle Wilson, conservation program manager, Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District received a grant from the Ohio EPA to restore the property.
“This is part of a land protection project,” said Wilson.
In March of 2018, Franklin Soil and Water broke ground on a multi-million-dollar stream and wetland restoration project at Hellbranch Meadows. Now, construction on the project is nearly complete.
The project includes the restoration of 2,890 feet of Hellbranch Run including restoration of a floodplain bench, restoration of an unnamed tributary stream, restoration of floodplain and upland wetlands, and extensive reforestation and prairie planting throughout the project area. Long-term plans also include the development of educational trails, connection to a regional trail system and construction of a shelter house or pavilion for educational programming.
“Education and outreach programs are our long terms goals,” said Wilson. “It is a piece of a bigger land protection effort.”
According to Wilson, the stream restoration project was needed because the stream habitat was not in good condition.
“The stream was more like a ditch,” said Wilson.
The newly created channel will feature ripples, pools, habitat structures and an accessible floodplain.
The original plan was for construction of the floodplain and tributary to be complete in the fall of 2018, but Mother Nature delayed that. According to Franklin Soil and Water, the rain would fall and Hellbranch would rise and flood its banks. The stream and wetland project were under water.
Wilson said with construction now wrapping up, albeit a year later than planned, Franklin Soil and Water hopes to start planting and have the project complete in the spring of 2020. Planting of native vegetation will continue through the spring on next year. When all is complete, Franklin Soil and Water will have planted more than 5,000 trees, 3,000 shrubs, and 10,000 herbaceous perennials. There will also be approximately 30 acres of native seeding and more than 33 acres of invasive species removal.
“The Big Darby Creek Watershed is home to rare and endangered species. So, the protection of its tributaries is vital,” said Wilson.
Once the stream and wetland restoration project at Hellbranch Meadows is finished, Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District plans to offer public tours.
For more information on the project, visit www.franklinswcd.org.