Daylighting and Restoring an Urban Creek at Oak Springs

ESC Completes Two Year Program Daylighting and Restoring Urban Creek at Oak Springs

In late 2016, ESC completed the restoration of a creek that had been previously capped off and channeled underground.  Existing vegetation was limited to exotic turfgrass and other quick-cover species. ESC’s restoration work was performed in conjunction with the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department.

The site, at the  corner of Tillery St. and Oak Springs Dr., sits between a library, soccer fields, and a water quality pond. The preliminary task was bringing the creek back to the surface. This was accomplished by digging down at intermittent places along the creek bed and damming the subsurface flow to force the water above ground. After daylighting the entire length of creek, restoration plantings and seeding took place.  These included a large diversity of marginal and aquatic native species in wetland areas prairie species and tree seedlings in upland areas. The upland areas were planted at a high frequency in a forestry-like approach and overseeded with wildflowers and climax grasses.

Throughout the project, invasive species such as Johnsongrass and KR bluestem were reduced significantly. Selective management of ragweed and rattle bush opened up the canopy along the creek, allowing sunlight to reach the newly planted vegetation.

The project was completed entirely without irrigation. An adaptive management approach allowed flexible scheduling, plantings and seeding to coincide with advantageous weather and soil moisture conditions rather than on a regimented timeline.

Today the creek is a thriving, diverse ecosystem benefiting both wildlife and the neighboring community as a natural amenity. ESC will be presenting a case study of the creek at the Urban Riparian Symposium later this month.