This afternoon I went running in Chester Park for the first time in a while. I parked at the Chalet and immediately noticed this posting on a light pole:
Apparently the city and the Soil and Water Conservation District will be removing the old dams at the foot of the ski hill, revegetating the stream banks, and building a pedestrian footbridge. My first reaction to this was, “Cool! It’ll be great to have a restored stream habitat.” But as I thought about it a little more, I started wondering what it was exactly that needs restoring here.
Looking at this lovely stretch of stream, it seems as though Mother Nature did a perfectly good stream restoration job herself during the 2012 floods, filling in the ponds with sediment and returning the watercourse to a rocky bed while maintaining the flat landing area for the ski hill. (I also worry about how taking out the dams will affect this aspect of the terrain, since the stream will naturally start to downcut a new ravine once the dams go away given the increased gradient). In just 5 years, natural succession has already created a vibrant, colorful mosaic of both native and non-native riparian forbs and shrubs on the new bottomland along the creek. To judge from the pictures on the pole, the restoration would obliterate this habitat and replace it with young trees and other shrubs. I’m all for pulling out old dams in places where they block fish migrations, but I doubt many spawning fish make it past the waterfalls lower down on Chester Creek. And as for the footbridge–the lower dam already has a very sturdy one across it that’s enjoyed by many children every summer weekend (and could be made a little more safe by simply installing a railing on one side).
So why spend the money to “restore” something that’s already for all intents and purposes a functional ecosystem serving both wildlife and people? Am I missing some bigger logic here? If so, someone please enlighten me.
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