Red Cedar River Urban Buffer Project
East Lansing, MI

Grantee: Ingham Conservation District
Basin Program Funds: $22,800
Non-federal Funds: $30,700
Project Duration: 07/2003 - 01/2006
Status: complete

Problem Statement
The Red Cedar River flows through the cities of East Lansing and Lansing has excessive sedimentation due to high volume runoff from the urban residential and business areas. Excessive sedimentation in the Red Cedar River has negatively affected the aquatic life in that body of water. The Red Cedar flows into the Grand River, contributing to poor water quality downstream which ultimately impacts Lake Michigan.

The Red Cedar River is currently on both the Clean Water Act Section 305(b) non attainment listing and the 303(d) Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) list. Sediment from runoff is categorized as one of the top pollutants in the urban portion of the watershed according to the results of the Red Cedar Watershed River survey. Many areas along the river are void of ample vegetation to slow and filter the urban runoff. Vegetation surveys show a lack of adequate filtering ability from the two predominant types of cover throughout the urban areas. One is chemically-treated, high maintenance mowed grass and the other is mature forest canopy with little undergrowth. In addition, high foot and recreational traffic in these areas give way to excessive erosion, adding to the problem. The soils along the river throughout the urban areas are moderate to highly erodible.

The Ingham Conservation District (ICD), in partnership with the City of Lansing, Michigan State University and the Lansing Board of Water and Light, established 500 feet of urban buffers at the most degraded sites along the Red Cedar River within the cities of Lansing and East Lansing. These buffers were established in late September 2003, and in late April 2004, with volunteer labor from participants of “Adopt a River.” ICD staff coordinated the volunteers and the planting of the buffers. A mixture of trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs were used specific to the site conditions, once the sites had been identified.

There is a river trail system along the Red Cedar that is maintained by the City of Lansing. Much of the river trail goes through parkland, but it also borders businesses and residences. It is estimated that 50,000 people access the trail system every year. The ICD posted one sign at the trailhead about the importance of urban buffers and this project. The sign will be part of a larger kiosk system owned and maintained by the City of Lansing. In addition, 4 smaller signs will be created for the buffer areas. The signs will inform river trail users about the use of urban buffers, including how they work and why they are important.

Access to the river is necessary in an urban area. Many local residents fish along the river and in some areas the trail is very close to the river’s edge. To increase public acceptance of this project, the ICD developed 4 river access points. This will minimize degradation of the newly planted buffers that need time to establish. Other activities included the planning and preparation of three workshops focusing on the 'What, Why and How' of Urban Buffers.

The City of East Lansing offered much assistance in the coordinating of the first of 3 scheduled workshops. General mailings and press releases were handled through East Lansing as well as the scheduling and preparing of facilities. A total of 30 people attended this workshop which focused on both urban and rural settings. The second workshop was coordinated through the East Lansing Lions Club in an effort to focus primarily on the urban setting. With a more streamline focus 17 turned out. The third workshop was advertised to the rural community in Ingham County through the ICD newsletter and press release and was not well received as we did not have any participants. A further workshop, outside the scope of the grant, is currently being scheduled with the Red Cedar Botanical Society. It is expected that other workshops and presentations will result. This will ensure the ongoing education component of the project.

Buffers were installed on two sites. Site #1 is a buffer that protects both the Red Cedar River and an adjacent flood plain. Extreme gully erosion was present with steep slopes making planting a challenge. Due to these conditions the Landscapers at Wild Type Nursery suggested using plant plugs to quickly bind the soil and reduce the possibility of continued erosion. The buffer size is approximately 25 feet wide by 100 feet long and includes both cool season grasses and native wildflowers. East Lansing has agreed to donate all maintenance costs and efforts toward maintaining the health of the buffer.

Site #2 is located in Grand River Park buffering the Grand River from erosion and runoff from the park lawn. Erosion was evident on the upland slopes adjacent to the river and the riparian areas consisted of mowed grass. This is a full sun site with little slope and was prime to drill cool season grass and wildflower seed. Seed type included Little Blue Stem, Canada Wild Rye, Purple and Gray Coneflower, Purple Prairie Clover, Coreopsis and Partridge Pea. The buffer is approximately 548 feet long with a serpentine edge varying in width. The buffers widest point is 40 feet and its narrowest point is 10 feet with an average width of 25 feet. City of Lansing has agreed to maintain the site with their Parks and Recreation Department staff.

Signage is currently undergoing design changes and review by the City of Lansing and East Lansing. Materials for sign construction are being provided by ICD. ICD expects the signs to be installed in September.

Contact: Ms. Chris Corgan, 517-676-2290


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