January 16, 2007
A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services project to improve water quality and reduce flood damage near the headwaters of Little Sugar Creek has won the annual Award for Excellence in Environmental Planning and Conservation given by the Centralina Council of Governments (COG). The award is for the Hidden Valley Ecological Garden.
Starting in 1999, Mecklenburg County bought and cleared more than sixteen flood-prone homes in the Hidden Valley neighborhood. They had been built in the decades before floodplain restrictions. While the buyouts were voluntary, homeowners were tired of repeated flood damage and eager to sell. That allowed the County to restore thirteen acres of floodplain as an educational wetland and preserve.
The path of Little Sugar Creek, which had been straightened, was returned to a meandering shape to reduce bank erosion. Detention ponds and more than a dozen wetlands were created along the restored stream to filter pollutants from storm water runoff. More than 30,000 plants were planted in the project area. The plants were chosen for their ability to absorb pollutants, reduce erosion, and tolerate floodplain soil conditions. Nature trails, footbridges and educational signs were added to attract visitors and increase public understanding of the project's many benefits.
The Ecological Garden was completed in 2006 with on-going water quality monitoring by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services and Duke University. Planning, design, and construction of the Hidden Valley Ecological Garden cost $4.4 million dollars, including federal funds to buyout homes that frequently flooded.
Benefits of the Hidden Valley Ecological Garden include:
· Improvement of water quality, even for people downstream of the project
· Flood mitigation
· Erosion control
· Environmental education
· Wildlife and aquatic habitat
The Hidden Valley Ecological Garden is along Wellingford Street near North Tryon in Charlotte. It is one of nine projects to that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services has completed or is currently undertaking to improve Little Sugar Creek and restore its floodplain. For more information about floodplain restoration in Mecklenburg County, visit http://stormwater.charmeck.org.
Centralina COG represents nine area counties including Mecklenburg and 66 municipalities.