Little Creek Naturalization

Little Creek is a coldwater stream originating on the Oak Ridges Moraine. The creek has a reach of two kilometers and a catchment area of approximately 130 hectares. The creek conveys flows from rural areas east of the village of Millbrook, through the urban centre of the village and empties into Baxter Creek, immediately downstream of the Millbrook Dam.

The Little Creek Naturalization Project focused on a 100-metre stretch immediately upstream of Baxter Creek, between the Cavan Monaghan Community Centre and the Nexicom property, an area known as Little Creek Park. The surrounding downtown area has been modified over the years. Some of this change has been as a result of development pressures and changes in land use, including seasonal snow storage.

In the Spring of 2009, Otonabee  Conservation staff examined several key functions and features of Little Creek in order to determine the best course of action for restoration. Staff examined the flow patterns and velocities of the creek as well as the water quality and overall condition of the  banks and materials on the creek bed.  A number of concerns and issues were identified; namely, slope failure, the presence of exposed utility cables within the stream bank, areas of undercutting and scour (severe erosion), contaminated runoff, flow restrictions, and failing retaining walls.

The goal of the Little Creek Naturalization Project was to enhance the aquatic and terrestrial habitat of this cold water stream and protect existing infrastructure on adjacent property. Little Creek is one of a few remaining cold water streams in the Otonabee Region watershed.

Through careful planning, a selection of natural channel design concepts as well as bioengineering measures and native plant materials were incorporated into the project. Consideration was also given to the existing infrastructure – Cavan Monaghan Community Centre, utility cables, property fencing and parking areas – knowing that the erosive forces within the creek had the potential to negatively affect development on surrounding properties.

The Little Creek Naturalization Project involved the removal of the failing pressure treated retaining channel walls located on the Nexicom property. A fish friendly culvert was installed and the banks stabilized using coir logs and native plants. The new culvert has an open bottom, providing a natural stream bed with river stone placed to create pools and riffles providing habitat for fish and other aquatic species. A vegetated filter strip was installed adjacent to the gravel parking and snow storage area on the site and to help buffer urban impacts such as surface water runoff and melt-water from snow dumping and storage.

The creek was physically re-aligned, incorporating a natural meander pattern to establish stability within the system. Several bioengineering measures were also used to achieve this including the installation of cedar crib walls and the placement of river stone, coir logs and coir cloth. These measures will also help to reduce the velocity of the water flowing through the creek, and thereby lessen the potential for erosion.

A selection of native species of trees, shrubs and wildflowers were planted to stabilize the banks and establish a riparian

buffer to capture surface water runoff and nurture characteristics of a healthy cold water habitat supporting a diversity of fish and wildlife.

Otonabee Conservation acknowledges the support of the many projects partners who made the restoration of Little Creek possible: Township of Cavan Monaghan, Nexicom, The Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation at the Toronto Community Foundation, the Otonabee Conservation Foundation, Armtec, EJLB Foundation, Community Stream Steward Program, OMNR Stewardship Rangers and Environment Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding Program.