The Ohio River Foundation is preparing to plant 10,000-15,000 native trees and shrubs along the banks of three Ohio River tributaries. It's thought to be the largest such habitat restoration project to date in Southwest Ohio.
"From the linear feet that's being worked on, I'm not aware of any other project that compares to that kind of restoration," says Rich Cogen, Ohio River Foundation executive director. "We have been involved, and others have been involved, in projects that may cost more money and may have a different impact, but it's on a much, much smaller footprint."
The restoration covers six miles of riverbank along the Little Miami River, the Great Miami River and O'Bannon Creek, a tributary of the Little Miami River. Staff aim to start planting this week, weather permitting. Work will begin in earnest with volunteer helpers in March.
The foundation will plant live stakes - a two-foot-long branch with a bud - along the riverbanks. The stakes are taken from dormant trees and will bloom and begin taking root as the weather warms in the spring. They're using American sycamore, red dogwood and three species of willow. The plantings help stabilize the riverbanks, lessening erosion and sediment loading in the waterways. They also create habitat for animals and help filter pollutants from stormwater runoff.
That's important considering these rivers flow into the Ohio River, which serves as a drinking water source for more than five million people.
"Knowing where our sources of drinking water come from, it's important for us to take care of and restore those rivers and waterways ... and a step in that direction is this kind of restoration project," says Cogen. "I think this is exciting and different from a typical river clean-up. In those instances you are removing pollution; here you are restoring and planting a tree."
Additionally, Cogen says, "It's important to try and restore the habitat that once existed on these rivers. We're optimistic that we're going to get a very high survivability from all these branches - live stakes - we're putting in the riverbanks."
People can register online to volunteer to harvest the live stakes. Volunteer planting dates will be announced at a later time. The project is funded by a $50,000 grant from Coors Seltzer's Change the Course partnership.