Photos and story by Doug Lockard, June 28, 2022
The Reedy River running through Unity Park has a new lease on life, courtesy of the City of Greenville, and I ‘discovered’ recently that it includes a marvelous native ‘Urban meadow’. The project has many players, but the renovation of the river basin was designed by the firm Biohabitats in conjunction with the architectural project manager MKSK. I learned that Biohabitats is one of the premier ecological restoration companies in North America, who “inspire communities to rediscover a sense of place through preserving indigenous ecosystems, restoring biological diversity, and embracing ecological stewardship.”
Speaking with Keith Bowers, President of the Biohabitats regional office in Mount Pleasant, SC. , I learned some interesting information worth sharing with our Upstate Membership.
Building a New Habitat
The Reedy River flood plain lost some of its resiliency when it was channelized in the 20’s-30’s making it more prone to flooding. Addressing that would involve engineering upstream which was outside the scope of the Unity Park project, so they focused on rebuilding a new habitat to adapt to the reality of the existing environmental conditions such as sunlight, tree shade, water temperature, and periodic flooding. Also, consistent with the goals of the park, and to minimize disruption of existing infrastructure, the river basin was widened to include a ‘bench’ on the north bank to encourage greater interaction between the visitors and the natural elements.
On the South bank, the emphasis was on removing the invasive plants such as Kudzu and Japanese Knot Weed, while preserving exiting and planting new shade canopy along the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The Kudzu is already making a come-back, and Keith assured that the Park has an ongoing ‘Invasive Species Management Plan’ to address this as invasives will continue to flow down the river.
On the North bank the emphasis was on visitors’ interaction. The trees were removed and replaced with a low ‘bench’ where a wildflower meadow was installed. Following the ‘Right Plant Right Place’ rule, the Habitat team selected species from our South Carolina native plant communities that would thrive in the conditions found there. I was interested in the bare oak and maple tree trunks that look like silent sentries on the North bank and Keith explained they were actually installed there after the bench was built to provide wildlife habitat in the meadow, eventually sequestering carbon by composting there.
Keith is a member of the SC Native Plant Society and he’s lectured to the Low Country chapter before. At the conclusion of our interview, he encouraged the Upstate members to monitor the progress at the Unity Park habitat over the years and send feedback to him at Biohabitats.