Update on the Habitat Restoration Project Along Kempton Run
Kempton Run is a beautiful stream in the northwest Columbus area and an important tributary to the Olentangy River, beginning just northwest of Don Scott Airport and joining the river at the south end of Antrim Park. The Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW), many partners and a multitude of passionate volunteers have worked since 2018 to remove invasive plants and replace with natives in several areas along the stream corridor.
In central Ohio, Asian bush honeysuckle is a major invasive shrub, crowding out native plants, contributing to streambank erosion and a toxic environment for stream life, including macroinvertebrates–essential to healthy stream ecosystems. Excessive native grapevine growth can cover shrubs and trees, while also smothering smaller seedlings and pollinator plants along the ground.
In 2018 and 2019, FLOW cleared and replanted the north side of the riparian conservation easement area along Kempton Run Road west of Linworth Rd. The now residential site was blanketed with decades of bush honeysuckle, and after multiple volunteer events, was cleared using cut-stump glyphosate treatment. Russell Expert Tree Service provided branch removal. Neighbors said they could finally see the stream!
With support from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Ohio State University (OSU) students, neighbors and volunteers, FLOW planted 194 native containerized trees and shrubs.
The next phase beginning in 2021 targeted the corridor between Linworth Rd and Olentangy River Rd., including residential properties in Indian Hills and Meeklyn Drive, the Indian Hills pool and tennis courts area, the Northwest Church of the Nazarene and the Timbrook Guesthouse Bed and Breakfast.
Two OSU capstone project teams were invaluable providing technical assessment of the riparian corridor and educational materials for the Indian Hills neighborhood residents and other community members. The assessment identified the key invasive plants with recommendations for control and native replacements in the various zones. The educational materials outlined the detrimental effects of the invasive plants, primarily invasive bush honeysuckle, and the values of native plants for stream quality, plant and wildlife diversity, and scenic beauty!
The project kicked off with an Earthday celebration in the Indian Hills common area, with many of the OSU students participating, along with neighbors, community members and other volunteers. Activities included student presentations of educational videos on habitat restoration, and educational games for the children, including getting in the stream for macroinvertebrate identification! There were plant giveaways and, as always, refreshments too!
The initial restoration in 2021 focused on the Indian Hills common area around the parking lot. In 2022, in partnership with the Northwest Church of the Nazarene, FLOW cleared over 400 feet of invasive shrubs and vines along the south bank at the west end of the church property. Russell Tree Experts again helped with a large machine that ground up the invasive shrubs wrapped in vines, leaving only wood chips!
The Earthday ’22 event, with support from OneTreePlanted, added another 125 trees and shrubs along the south bank. Volunteers included Indian Hills residents and Church members and other community members. There were again educational activities for kids, who could name and tag the trees they planted!
In October 2022, after more honeysuckle removal during the summer and native grass and pollinator seed sowing, 110 additional containerized trees and shrubs were planted, primarily along the north stream bank. OneTreePlanted again provided financial support, with FLOW volunteers supervising the planting and watering, while supplying shovels, gloves, water and snacks!
In Winter 2023, Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District provided consultation on erosion control for the east end of the stream south of the Timbrook B&B. Throughout the year, the south and west side of the Indian Hills Common Area was cleared of honeysuckle and overgrown native grapevine. Extensive wintercreeper and garlic mustard was also removed. The Franklin County Environmental Court assisted in removing the branches.
In late October and early November, over 70 native trees and shrubs were planted in the cleared area. Over half of the trees planted were oaks, along with black cherry, tulip poplar, sweet gum, persimmon, bald cypress and pawpaw. Small trees and shrubs planted included chokeberry, bladdernut and elderberry.
We plan to continue restoration along the stream corridor. We’re also continuing maintenance on the earlier planting areas. FLOW has utilized staked tree tubes and guards to help protect against deer damage.
The Kempton Run multiyear restoration has overall been successful, but there is still more to do! Much has been achieved, with multiple partners and the continued efforts of an essential core of passionate volunteers! The improved habitat from these additional trees, shrubs and other native plants should enrich the experience for all who visit there, and help improve stream, vegetation and wildlife quality.