Creekside Neighbors Program – empowering residents within the Shoal Creek watershed
August 18, 2020 | By Shoal Creek Conservancy
Creekside Neighbors Program provides residents in the Shoal Creek watershed with the resources necessary to help improve Shoal Creek’s water quality
Through educational materials and technical guidance, Shoal Creek Conservancy is empowering residents to join its effort to make Shoal Creek a safer and more accessible natural space for all
AUSTIN, TEXAS – August 19, 2020 – Today, the Shoal Creek Conservancy launched its new Creekside Neighbors Program to provide residents living along Shoal Creek with the tools and resources they need to take an active role in improving Shoal Creek’s water quality.
“With the Creekside Neighbor Program, our goal is to empower the residents of the Shoal Creek watershed to learn all of the ways they can help improve Shoal Creek and its natural resources—and then act on them,” said Ivey Kaiser, Executive Director of the Shoal Creek Conservancy. “If you live in the watershed, it’s safe to say that you’re enjoying its benefits. This program offers folks a chance to give back to Shoal Creek and to make it a safer and more accessible natural space for everyone, and we’re excited to bring our Creekside Neighbors along with us in the effort.”
Encompassing nearly 13 square miles, the Shoal Creek watershed is home to more than 72,000 Austinites. But with more than half of the watershed covered by impervious surfaces like asphalt and concrete and the city expanding every year, the importance of ensuring the quality of the water that runs through Shoal Creek cannot be overstated. In a natural setting, stormwaters soak into the ground, but when water hits concrete it has nothing to soak into, leaving it to pool or flow over those surfaces, picking up dirt and pollution along the way—and that’s the situation Shoal Creek is up against.
Pollution that washes into Shoal Creek and impacts the quality of its waters can include trash, bacteria from animal waste, and nutrients from fertilizers. And while it’s difficult to trace and prevent the origins of all the “non-point source pollutants,” Shoal Creek Conservancy has identified a real opportunity to support the creek and the broader watershed by supporting a collective effort by all neighbors and residents along the creek.
“Austin’s water quality monitoring has shown that pesticides used only on individual lawns and landscapes can accumulate to the point that they are detected at levels harmful to aquatic life in urban creeks during stormwater runoff events,” said Chris Herrington, Environmental Officer for the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department. “This tells us that individual actions can have a cumulative, measurable, and negative impact on our shared public natural resources.”
The Creekside Neighbors Program offers residents virtual access to a variety of public resources and technical guidance provided by the City of Austin, as well as options and rebates that homeowners can take advantage of to help solve these water challenges.
Shoal Creek was once home to popular swimming holes and through the program, Shoal Creek Conservancy aims to lay the groundwork for Austinites to again think of Shoal Creek as a safe, free place to fish, swim and cool off during our hot summer months.
Shoal Creek Conservancy also hopes to leverage this program to bolster its monthly volunteer cleanups and creek restoration workdays. While the Conservancy regularly hosts workdays in the public spaces along Shoal Creek, approximately seven miles of the creek runs through private property and is not accessible without permission from property owners. Through this program, Creekside Neighbors can now fill out a request form to borrow supplies from Shoal Creek Conservancy to host their own neighborhood cleanups—entirely free of charge.
“With the Shoal Creek Conservancy and local residents working together, we can make a greater impact than we would working in silos. We look forward to supporting this community of residents and stewards!” said Kaiser.
The Creekside Neighbors Program implements many of the education and water quality goals outlined in the recently completed Shoal Creek Watershed Action Plan, a community-guided plan to actively improve water quality and overall health in Shoal Creek. The Watershed Action Plan is funded in part by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) through a United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant.