2-acre project included 8,000 native plants and trees to improve water quality, combat erosion
Volunteers from across Western New York joined the team from Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper for a native tree planting event Saturday to complete Waterkeeper’s three-year shoreline restoration project on Spicer Creek at River Oaks on Grand Island.
Where Spicer Creek was suffering from steep banks causing shoreline erosion and non-point source pollution from runoff, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper restored several sections along the creek at River Oaks Golf Club by re-grading the shorelines; installing salvaged boulders, live stakes and native plants; and creating step-pools to slow, filter and capture runoff before it hits the creek.
“Too many of our creeks and streams have degraded shorelines, which is why Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s ‘Living Shoreline’s Initiative’ has targeted restoration work throughout our community to improve water quality, and create healthier habitats,” explained Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka. “Our project on Spicer Creek at River Oaks is a great example of innovative collaboration between a nonprofit organization and a private golf club who share the goal of making our environment healthier and more sustainable for all. The fact that we were able to involve community volunteers to complete the restoration of this shoreline makes the whole endeavor even more rewarding.”
Two acres and 5,280 linear-feet of shoreline have been restored through the project and, with this current planting, 8,000 native plants and trees have been installed, improving shoreline resiliency and water quality while creating important fish and wildlife habitat. Saturday’s volunteer planting event, in which community volunteers planted 55 native trees, caps a three-year successful restoration project, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The ability to work within a golf course setting brought a unique aspect to this restoration project. Golf courses typically contain a water feature, and Waterkeeper took on the challenge of balancing golf course management operations and maintenance activities with healthy waterways and habitat practices.
“We hope that the restoration practices implemented through this project can be transferred to other golf courses throughout the watershed,” said Director of Ecological Programs Emily Root. “The improvements not only improve water quality and habitat, they also create visual interest within the course and the course has received overwhelming positive feedback since restoration was complete. We are thankful for our partnership with River Oaks on this project and for their contributions throughout project implementation.”
Conservation Advisory Board member Diane Evans said, “This project began with our very own Conservation Advisory Board. A few members of the board who were also Waterkeeper’s Riverwatch volunteers expressed concern about the water quality readings taken from Spicer Creek near the junction with East River Road, in the southeastern corner of River Oaks. This has been a water monitoring site for many years, and has consistently gotten low readings. Diane Evans, then chair of the board, called a meeting with Waterkeeper personnel, CAB members, and representatives from the golf club. After a tour of the creek within the golf club, in January 2016, Emily Root, from Waterkeeper, began the application process for a grant. Funding was granted in 2017 and the project began in 2018. This planting, on Nov. 14, 2020, is the final step in completing the project. The CAB is proud to have been part of this stream improvement from the beginning, and now, here, at the end, planting trees with our town supervisor, John Whitney.”
“Here at River Oaks Golf Club, we have had the great pleasure to welcome such an amazing project on our property. We take pride in revitalizing the waterways passing through the golf course and would recommend others to do the same,” said River Oaks Golf Course Superintendent Ricky Johnson Jr. “This has been such an easy transition for me to maintain the course and help complete this project. We would like to give a special thanks to the Buffalo Waterkeeper for making this all happen here at River Oaks Golf Club.”
Wendy Paterson, in front, with Waterkeeper volunteers at Spicer Creek.