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One in a Thousand Ways to Save Our Bay

Homestead Gardens gets its stormwater under control

A new river runs through Homestead Gardens. It’s a little out of the way, off to the side of the garden center with its plants, trees and shrubberies. But this river, which only runs when it rains, is at the center of making Homestead’s 12 acres a zero contributor to the pollution of Beard’s Creek, the South River and Chesapeake Bay.
    This river flows at the bottom of a grassy bowl. Before it was built, rain rushed down the sides of the bowl in a torrent strong enough that it tore out a neighboring driveway in its rush to the creek, the river and the Bay.
    Now a series of terraced wetland beds collects the rainwater. Hillocks between the beds, sheathed in native limestone from a quarry on the Patuxent River, interrupt the flow, creating ponds and wetlands. The whole acre-and-a-half system contains the flow of stormwater and processes polluting sediment and nitrogen through the earth’s natural filtration system.
    The goal, according to Kirk Mantay, the South River Federation’s manager for this project, is for as little water and pollution to leave the site as possible. “We don’t want it to go downstream,” he said.
    Add a few thousand more projects like this one and Anne Arundel County will be on target for reaching its pollution reduction goals, according to South River Federation executive director Erik Michelsen.
    Looking down on the pools and the dry bed of the river, walking on its mulched edges as frogs jump and dragonflies hover, it seems easy.
    It wasn’t.
    The Homestead project was more than four years in the making.
    Way back when, the South River Federation surveyed its creeks for problems that needed fixing. More recently Anne Arundel County added the Homestead site as the second-highest priority for restoration in the Beard’s Creek watershed.
    Meanwhile, the Federation was directing its efforts and developing expertise in on-the-ground restoration, as well as seeking grants to fund the work. Grants from Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Chesapeake Bay Trust invested about $88,000 in this project. Homestead had to be willing, of course, and developing that partnership took negotiations with owner Don Riddle, then his son and successor Brian Riddle.
    Only this summer did earthmovers cut the riverbed and shape its ponds. Now Homestead is adding landscaping, interpretive signage and a gazebo on an overlook, making the river one of its attractions.
    “We all have a part in restoration of the watershed,” Homestead president Brian Riddle said.
    Homestead’s new river — officially known as a regenerative stormwater conveyance system — wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t cheap.
    But the know-how is there. So are the partners. So is the money. On just this one Bay watershed, “several million dollars in restoration money from state and federal governments” is waiting to be invested in projects like this, Michelsen said.
    Take a look at this project on your next visit to Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville. It could give you ideas that your own riverkeeper can help put into action.