Crews help restore impaired Allen Brook (4/22/10)

April 22, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

Standing on the shore of the Allen Brook last week, Jessica Andreoletti pointed to a sloped bank at a spot upstream, where freshly planted young shrubs sat in the earth. The bank stood in stark contrast to a 5-foot cliff just downstream at a bend in the brook.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Cliff DesMarais, a school instructor for a Vermont Youth Conservation Corps group, plants a silky dogwood shrub on a bank of the Allen Brook last week. The VYCC crew spent a week working on the brook as part of an ongoing effort to reduce erosion.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Crews from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps worked on the banks of the Allen Brook last week, planting trees and shrubs in an effort to prevent erosion.

Andreoletti, who works for Williston as a town planner, said the Allen Brook was long ago channelized to create good farmland. As the brook wends its way through Williston, it flows up against the steep banks, carving out sediment that chokes fish and bug habitat.

“The river is now trying to reestablish its floodplain,” Andreoletti said.

The town is trying to help, which is why it is overseeing efforts to level the banks of the stream. Erosion and the subsequent degradation of fish and insect habitat have landed the Allen Brook on a state list of impaired waterways.

Past efforts to improve and monitor the brook have included plantings along the shores and surveys of fish populations.

Last week, a crew of two instructors and five students from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, or VYCC, continued the restoration efforts by planting shrubs and trees along a southern bank of the Allen Brook. Richmond-based Grzywna Construction had created graded slopes at a section of the brook near the intersection of South Ridge Road and U.S. 2. By planting trees and shrubs, as well as spreading grass seed and laying down a biodegradable mat of hay, the VYCC crew hoped to hold the soil in place.

Andreoletti said the spot was chosen for restoration work based on a stream assessment that determined the area to be a high priority site.

The VYCC was brought in with a $2,530 grant from the state. The Southridge Neighborhood Association, which lies to the north of that section of the Allen Brook, donated additional funds. Gryzwna Construction also contributed by doing some of its work without pay, Andreoletti said. The Snyder Group, which owns the land on the south side of the brook, allowed the crews to work on the property.

The VYCC works with high school students from the state, allowing them to obtain credit through public and school partnerships. The organization has worked with Williston in the past.

A different VYCC crew did an initial planting last summer on the north side of the Allen Brook. Last Thursday, Andreoletti pointed out areas where the brook had already eroded restored parts of the northern bank, and acknowledged the trial and error nature of the effort.

Despite the learning process of the restoration, Andreoletti noted that the project has become a bit of a community effort: on Saturday, a group of Williston Cub Scouts planted trees and shrubs at the site.

The new plants could improve not only the Allen Brook’s water quality, but also it’s aesthetic quality.

“It looks like if you give it a year or two you’ll want to spread out a blanket and have a picnic,” said Cliff DesMarais, one of the VYCC instructors.