Riparian Restoration Award

The Virginia State Forester presented a Plaque to The Koger Management Group and Hawthorne Village for the urban riparian restoration project and the training held on the property. The following article, reprinted from the Kroger Management Group, Community Management News, describes the project.

A River Runs Through It

Click to enlarge: Erosion Photo

Controlling Erosion in Neighborhood Waterways

One of the greatest sources of beauty in our metropolitan area is the abundance of natural waterways, both large and small, that nurture our vegetation, our wildlife and our souls. Through the ages, many people have written about the calming and reflective qualities of water. In this issue we're going to talk about the darker side of water. We're going to talk about the erosive and destructive side of our lakes, creeks and runs. Many local associations have encountered large and expensive problems while trying to control the waterways that bisect or border their communities. Too many times communities have attempted to control the power of water with concrete channeling and other aesthetic eyesores. Those methods just aren't necessary. Hopefully we can open your eyes to methods of control that are not invasive, ugly or expensive. Experience is the best teacher, and we have a lot of experience.

In early 1996, we assumed the management of a lovely 362 unit garden condominium in Fairfax, Virginia named Hawthorne Village. The condominium had a reputation of excellence and attention to detail that can be attributed in great measure to their on-site Manager, Ms. Karen Taylor. In July of 1996 a new building engineer, Hector Contreras, was hired for the complex. Hector has a great resume on building maintenance issues, like chillers, boilers and elevators.

Click to enlarge: Erosion Photo

The Problem: Major Stream Erosion

While prioritizing the maintenance projects of the condominium, we were tasked with trying to find a resolution to a major erosion problem surrounding a creek that bisected the grounds of the condominium. The beautifully manicured grounds of the condominium were being decimated by a meandering stream that undercut banks, undermined trees and washed away large areas of banked turf. Apparently the problem had been a thorn in the side of the Board of Directors since the beginning days of the property. Several smaller, one yard wide, “surface water” feeder channels had been concreted in the past.

Click to enlarge: Channels Photo

These concrete surface flumes had been built at great expense to at least limit the damage on the landscaped grounds as they carried water to the main channel of the creek bed which continued to grow like the Grand Canyon.

Never one to shy from a challenge, the Koger Management Association Manager assigned to the community, Melinda Nickols, began her epic journey to find a workable resolution to the problem. Hector, the Building Engineer, had never had to resolve such a problem. Melinda had to start from ground zero. She first attempted to determine into which watershed the creek emptied. She needed to know this to gain authorization for any corrective actions. She was striking out on all inquires until Karen Taylor, the on-site Manager, provided her with a brochure she had received from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District that advertised a booklet called “Watershed Protection Techniques.” A few calls later and Melinda had reached Barbara White.

On-Site Workshop Provides Solutions

The brochure had started the ball rolling. Through an invitation by Ms. Nickols to Barbara White and Dr. Click to enlarge: Workshop PhotoJudy Okay of the Virginia Department of Forestry to visit the property, an appointment was made. That was the first of many visits. Deborah Mills, from the Department of Conservation and Recreation in Richmond, visited the site and selected the stream as an ideal location for a restoration workshop. For $35, interested individuals were enrolled in a two-day workshop titled “Riparian Restoration and Stream Protection in Urban Areas.” The first day of the workshop was classroom instruction. The second day was spent actually installing many of the different types of structural and channel revetments to our now famous creek bed.

The seminar was a cooperative effort and included instructors from the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Forestry, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Soil and Water Conservation District staff.

Click to enlarge: Bio Logs Photo

We couldn't begin to name all of the possible ways to use stone, downed lumber and vegetation to restore creek beds, but we can describe the techniques that were used in this application and point you to the proper authorities if you would like more information. Many of the applications included products produced by the BonTerra Corporation of Genesse, Idaho (E-mail: For purposes of brevity we will describe several of BonTerra's trademarked products. “Bio Logs” are a long, soft bundled roll of natural fiber material (coir, which is coconut fiber) that conforms to a stream bank. They can be installed in long, contiguous application (end to end), or they can be stacked. While acting as a natural buffer, they trap silt and act as a plant starter.

Click to enlarge: Bio Logs Photo 2

This application used “Living Stakes” of willow and other water loving trees to anchor them to the bed of the stream. Natural cuttings of willow, along with sedges, rushes, and grasses were then inserted into the body of the log, to “naturalize” the edge of the stream.

Another BonTerra product,“Bog Mats” were used to stabilize slopes behind the “Bio Logs.” They were seeded and covered with erosion control blankets, which were staked down and held the seed.

Click to enlarge: Bog Mats Photo

Because this was an instructional session, there were other techniques demonstrated including the more traditional placement of heavy rock “rip rap.” We would like to thank Palmer Property Maintenance, (703) 742-8670, who donated their time and heavy equipment to participate in the training seminar. Owner Patrick Palmer and his Landscape Architect, Greg Shannon, were at the controls of a backhoe all day. We all know how expensive that can normally be.

Special thanks also need to go to Hector Contreras who attended an earlier seminar in Manassas, Virginia to learn the techniques. He was instrumental in the set up and preparation for the second day of the restoration workshop and was invaluable to the whole operation.

In another technique, natural tree revetments (carefully placed and cable cedar trees) were laid on the outside bend of the creek to trap sediment and rebuild a bank. The importance of anchoring and cabling the trees to each other and the bank was stressed. Swift moving water will try to tear away the trees, so they must be firmly attached. As floods recede and deposit silt and sand, a moist fertile seed bed is formed naturally. Within a year, trees like cottonwood, sycamore and willow will appear naturally in the newly formed bank.

The Hawthorne Village creek restoration is still a work in progress. None of this could have been accomplished without the complete cooperation of the Hawthorne Village Board of Directors who, while allowing these experts access and agreeing to pay for the supplies, saved over $100,000 in labor expense. Now we get to watch the restorative powers of nature, aided by a few modern revetment techniques.

For information about similar seminars, call the Department of Conservation and Recreation in Richmond. Locally, you can contact the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District.