|Submission Date||March 1, 2019|
University of Richmond
IN-24: Innovation A
|1.00 / 1.00||
Director of Sustainability
Office for Sustainability
Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:
In 2017, the University of Richmond created a strategic plan that asked the campus community to further weave environmental stewardship into the fabric of the University. Among the projects that fit this charge is construction of an Eco-Corridor via upgrades to Gambles Mill Trail and removal of invasive species, first articulated in the 2011 Campus Master Plan. Completion of foundational activities, including improving campus roads at the northern terminus and adding a pedestrian crossing at the southern end, set the stage for these trail improvements.
The University retained the services of Resource Environmental Solutions (RES), a national ecological restoration firm with an outpost in Richmond, to restore Little Westham Creek, improve a pedestrian trail remove invasive species, plant native species, and manage stormwater. Restoring the stream would not only result in fewer nutrients and less sediment flowing to the James, but also generate an ecological credit that would offset the cost of the trail improvements.
Plans for the Gambles Mill Eco-Corriodor included various stakeholders. We held a design charette to gather ideas from faculty members, students, neighbors, cyclists, and other interested people. The final Eco-Corridor project plans incorporate our past planning efforts, our value of stewardship, and the voices of our community.
The final project has four key elements:
Stream restoration: Streams perform many critical functions, including supplying drinking water, providing food and habitat to animals, and reducing the rate of water flow during storm surges. Little Westham Creek currently has deep, eroded banks and a straight channelized route that impedes its ecological function. The restoration will reconstruct the main stream channel to provide better flow, reduce nutrient load, and support biodiversity in and along the creek. These stewardship efforts also improve the health of the James River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds by improving downstream water quality and reducing total maximum daily loads of pollutants entering waterbodies.
Construction of a recreational trail: The upgraded Gambles Mill Trail will be a multi-use recreational amenity connecting two major bike routes within the city and offering an ADA-accessible path for faculty, staff, and students to take to the James River. In turn, an improved trail will bring more community members onto campus. The walking and biking trail will be repaved this summer. The trail will be marked with signs that educate cyclists and walkers about the native plantings, history, and the project itself.
An “Eco-Corridor Think Tank,” a project through the Center for Civic Engagement, has already convened faculty to design curriculum that uses the site as a living laboratory. At their urging, we are relocating large boulders excavated from another campus project to be reused as natural seating in an open-air classroom.
Removal of invasive species: At the request of faculty who wanted to study changes in the land over time, the the land between Gambles Mill Trail and Little Westham Creek has not been actively managed. Once bisected by a rail line that delivered coal to the university’s steam plant, it is now inundated by invasive species. It has been overtaken by English ivy, Chinese privet, Japanese stiltgrass, and other plants less hospitable to the local insects, birds, and bats that keep the ecosystem in balance.
In spring 2018, to the delight of the campus community, a herd of goats went to work munching on privet, porcelain berry, poison ivy, and anything else they could get their jaws on. While the animals thoroughly cleared the area through biological means, they could not reach everything. Even on their hind legs they couldn’t nibble anything higher than six feet off the ground—and Porcelain-berry and English Ivy are both climbers that can reach into the canopies of 80-foot-tall trees. The remaining undesirable plants were treated with mechanical means (loppers and chainsaws) and limited spot treatment with herbicides that meet our integrated pest management standards.
Though some trees and plants will be removed as part of the restoration’s expanded flood plain, more than 9,000 native trees and plants will go into the ground over the life of the project. As they mature, these native plantings will help keep some invasive species at bay, though we will still need to actively manage the area. In addition to retaining a community garden that has long existed within the eco-corridor, we plan to establish a pollinator meadow with habitat that welcomes butterflies, birds, bats, and insects. We may also move the university’s beehives to the same meadow.
Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :
The website URL where information about the innovation is available :
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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