Bear Creek 6.6 Restoration
The Freshwater Trust (TFT) is an Oregon-based non-profit organization with a mission to preserve and restore freshwater ecosystems. In 2018, TFT contracted with the City of Ashland to develop and implement a “water quality trading” (WQT) program for the City. This WQT program involves planting and maintaining native trees and shrubs along streambanks in the Bear Creek watershed, with the goal of generating shade that the City will use to comply with its Clean Water Act wastewater permit.
Establishing a native plant community and controlling invasive weeds will increase stream shade and will also reduce erosion, absorb sediment, nutrients and pollution before they reach the stream, and increase the wildlife habitat and connectivity along the creek corridor. In addition, clearing weeds and replacing them with long-lived native trees and shrubs reduces maintenance needs while beautifying and increasing the property’s value for the public.
The Bear Creek 6.6 site is a streamside (or riparian) planting project on 4.9 acres along a public corridor of the Bear Creek Greenway in Central Point, Oregon. It includes the removal and control of invasive species and weeds and the planting of more than 7,500 native trees and shrubs on the south side of the creek. Temporary plant protection (Vexar cages) is installed for the first few years to help plants get established. Additionally, weeds such as Himalayan blackberry, vinca, and poison hemlock were cleared to prevent them from overtaking the project area, particularly after the area was burned by the 2020 Table Rock wildfire.
Pre-project site conditions, July 2023:
Planting of site, December 2023:
(photo coming soon)
This area is home to an abundance of wildlife, including beaver, American black bear, river otters, herons, egrets, and eagles. While Bear Creek is southwest Oregon’s most urbanized waterbody, it continues to support Chinook and Coho salmon, steelhead, lamprey and other native fish species. In particular, fall run Chinook Salmon select this reach for the majority of the spawning locations on Bear Creek each year.
Trees planted here include big leaf maple, Oregon ash, black oak, black cottonwood, incense cedar, Ponderosa pine, Pacific willow, white alder, and chokecherry. Shrubs planted here include mock orange, skunkbush, Pacific ninebark, Oregon grape, Douglas spirea, Nootka rose, redosier dogwood, and others. The plants were procured from a local nursery.
Native trees provide shade, while native shrubs provide flowers for pollinators and berries that become food for wildlife. Certain species thrive by the water’s edge, while others are more drought-resistant and thrive in the upland. All these plants help to develop a dense, healthy, multi-story forest.
Berberis aquifolium (tall Oregon grape): This drought tolerant native shrub was deemed the state flower of Oregon for reasons beyond the attractive bright yellow flower it produces. In riparian areas this hardy upland species supports pollinators, serves as a food source for wildlife, and is an important player in forming a dense understory, thriving in the shaded areas created by fast-growing riparian tree species.
Alnus rhombifiloia (white alder): This water-loving, fast-growing native tree species is vitally important along streams and in wetlands. Durable enough to withstand consistent inundation from flooding and wind, this sturdy tree stabilizes streambanks and casts shade, usually growing from 16 to 80 feet in height.
Site preparation begins in mid-November 2023. It will target the treatment and removal of invasive vegetation like Himalayan blackberry, reed canary grass, catalpa, black locust and any nondegradable material (trash). This clearing will prioritize the retention of existing native plants found throughout the project site. Once invasive vegetation is removed, planting and irrigation will begin. Planting is scheduled for December 2023.
The site was planted in late 2023 and will be maintained and monitored for 20 years by The Freshwater Trust through the City of Ashland’s Water Quality Trading Program.
The City of Ashland and The Freshwater Trust are partnering to use shade produced from restoring streamside forests to help the City comply with its wastewater permit under the Clean Water Act. This program finds local sites that would benefit from riparian plantings and reduce instream temperature. As the plants grow at each restored site, they block kilocalories of solar load (sunlight), which generates credits for the City and helps keep the stream cool for native fish.
The Freshwater Trust selects sites using its StreamBank® BasinScout® tool, which prioritizes many potential sites based on several values, including benefits to the environment. Sites throughout the Rogue River basin are identified using satellite imagery and modeled for future conditions of full forests. This allows the team to locate the most impactful planting sites and work with willing landowners to restore them.
Water quality trading sites are closely monitored to ensure that the plants are growing well and that invasive species have not returned. The Freshwater Trust staff and local contractors visit the sites regularly and decide which actions might be needed to keep the site healthy. Additionally, water quality trading sites have mandatory third-party verifiers who ensure that the site meets its performance targets and generates the credits needed to comply with the wastewater permit requirements.
This project covers 4.9 acres on the south bank of Bear Creek.
There are multiple ways you can help keep this site working well. You can report dumping and illegal camping, pick up trash when you find it, and report wildlife sightings.
You can offer feedback on your experience at this project location to our project manager, Katelyn Detweiler, by emailing Katelyn@thefreshwatertrust.org
Get in touch
Have questions about restoration in the Rogue watershed?
Eugene Wier, Restoration Program Manager