In October the healthy riparian buffer of trees and shrubs along the stream bank of Happy Creek in Front Royal was removed with plans to line the bank with riprap (large gravel-like rocks). The Alliance joined forces with other local conservation groups to form the Save Happy Creek Coalition to voice our concern and advocate for a better plan for the streams and its banks.
Save Happy Creek
What’s wrong with the current plan?
The original plan included lining both banks of Happy Creek with riprap (large gravel-like rocks) for over 1300 feet. Though riprap may be needed in certain locations, a healthy riparian buffer of trees and shrubs is actually better at naturally slowing stormwater runoff and provides habitat for fish and wildlife. If the plan is carried out as written, it will actually increase the potential for flooding downstream.
Both the public and organizations who have maintained and paid for plantings for more than a decade in this area were surprised and horrified that local expertise was not tapped to determine the needs for Happy Creek and the best plan of action. The project destroyed existing stream enhancements that were paid for with public funds.
In the process of planning and implementation, possible legal violations include failure to post notification on the work site and failure to involve the Urban Forestry Advisory Commission.
The plan may have violated state erosion and sediment controls and review by permitting agencies is in question since current streamside best management practices were not followed.
Trees larger than 4 inches in diameter were removed despite the plan stating they would stay. The streambank has been destabilized because these trees and their root systems were removed.
It’s our hope that the Town can rewrite the plan for Happy Creek to include replanting of the riparian buffer, ensuring that fish and wildlife habitat is restored, stormwater is absorbed efficiently, and a walk along the greenway is, once again, green. Specifically, in the near-term we request that the Town:
- Keep the stop-work order on the project in place until a better plan can be agreed on
- Implement a short-term solution for stream bank stabilization
- Request the necessary extension of work from state agencies
- Engage the community in a solution for Happy Creek
In October 2020, a contractor hired by the Town of Front Royal removed the riparian forest buffer (shrubs and trees) along Happy Creek, directly adjacent to the Royal Shenandoah Greenway. For over two decades, Front Royal has been listed as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation due to the great work of dedicated citizens committed to supporting the town’s public parks and natural beauty. These citizens provided the funds and labor to plant trees throughout Front Royal, including along Happy Creek, but were not consulted as a plan for stormwater management along Happy Creek was devised. Neither was the Urban Forestry Advisory Commission, adjacent landowners, or other stakeholder community groups, and instead, these ecologically vital trees were destroyed without community input.
We have partnered with the Beautification of Front Royal Committee, Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, Front Royal/Warren County Appalachian Trail Community, Front Royal/Warren County Tree Stewards, Izaak Walton League, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Sustainability Matters and the Garden Club of Warren County to form the Save Happy Creek Coalition. We are proud to work with these groups that have been fighting to protect rivers, forests, and the natural environment in their communities. Together, we have submitted letters of concern to local government officials in Front Royal, engaged state government officials regarding the violations, and published a letter to the editor to local media.
For questions about this project, contact Chris Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the Save Happy Creek group on Facebook!
Disappointing update for Happy Creek
Work has begun again along Happy Creek, following a revised erosion and sediment control plan and the posting of work plans and permits on site as required.
Happy Creek Misconceptions and Clarifications
We hope this list can serve as a resource for those who want a better plan for Happy Creek in Front Royal.
Tell Front Royal to STOP and make a better plan!
We are discouraged that the Front Royal Town Council has not yet asked for an extension of the project deadline to complete the work along Happy Creek.
Trees & Your Local Watershed
Learn why riparian buffers – trees & natural plantings along the banks of waterways – are essential for clean water, erosion control, and wildlife habitat.