Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2011-01-14

A Samford University-led Shades Creek enhancement project in Homewood is nearing completion. The end of the month-long construction effort will be celebrated Tuesday, Jan. 18, with a special field tour and planting day, beginning at 1 p.m. The public is invited.

Samford and 12 partners have been engaged for almost a year in planning the collaborative endeavor to enhance and improve the quality of a 1,200-foot long portion of Shades Creek along Lakeshore Drive.  The site is on university-owned property where the school plans to construct outdoor recreation facilities for Samford students.

“The work has addressed conditions such as bank erosion, the invasion of unwanted non-native plants, loss of deep-rooted plants and trees, minimal aquatic habitat, and mid-channel sediment bars that contributed to the bank erosion,” said Samford capital planning and improvement director David Whitt.

The enhancement project has resulted in more stable banks, the addition of native riparian vegetation at water’s edge, enhanced wetlands and improved water quality. Rock structures at 10 locations direct high water flows away from stream banks and form scour pools that provide a natural habitat for fishes, turtles and other aquatic wildlife. About 1,000 tons of large boulders were brought in for the project.

The improved site also offers more enjoyable aesthetics for people who live or work nearby, motor along Lakeshore Drive, or exercise on the popular paved Greenway that parallels the creek. Students at Samford and other area schools can now better use the area for outdoor biology classrooms, added Whitt.

Some Samford biology students have already benefited. In the fall, members of a senior seminar collected pre-construction data on wildlife, water flow and water quality that will serve as a benchmark for future record gathering.

Samford will soon begin construction of an outdoor basketball court, sandlot volleyball court and picnic pavilion between Homewood High School and Samford’s Children’s Learning Center, located east of the high school. Completion is scheduled for this spring.

Tuesday’s event will include a project overview, a description of new vegetation selection and bioengineering, and a demonstration of invasive plant management. After the presentation, volunteers from Samford and other partners will assist with planting trees and shrubs such as river birch and silky dogwood.  The public is invited to attend and participate.

The gathering point will be in a paved parking area near Samford’s intramural/soccer fields on South Lakeshore Drive, east of Homewood High School.

Project partners include Samford’s biology department, LBYD, Inc., civil engineering firm, Holcombe Norton landscape architects, City of Homewood, Friends of Shades Creek, Jennings Environmental, North State Environmental, Auburn University department of agronomy and soils, Alabama Cooperative Extension System,  Alabama Department of Environment Management, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alabama Historical Commission.

“I am especially pleased that all of these entities contributed their expertise and interests while we successfully complied with all of the regulatory requirements,” said Whitt. “I hope this project will be a model for similar improvements in the future.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.