LANSING-The Ashe County Board of Commissioners went a long way this week toward helping Lansing with the next stages of its Big Horse Creek restoration project.
County commissioners voted 4-1 – Commissioner William Sands was the lone vote in opposition – on July 5, to provide Lansing with $35,000 to move the project forward.
In recent months, Lansing had requested $50,000 in county money to help with the plan, but planners went back to the drawing board when that request was not approved. Since then, Lansing has agreed to put up another $10,000 for the project and the contractor has reduced its fee by $5,000.
As a result, the county has agreed to use $20,000 from occupancy tax proceeds and $15,000 from economic development funding to bolster the Big Horse restoration work.
“We need to complete the first phase of the bank work so we can pave the walking trail and complete other projects,” Lansing Mayor Dylan Lightfoot said. “Assuming we get the (Clean Water Management) grant later this year, we will plan for phase two, which will continue up-river to the East Little Horse Creek bridge.”
Long needed work
While the restoration of Big Horse Creek had long been talked about, the project only officially got underway last fall, according to previous interviews with Josselyn Lucas, an environmental technician at Foggy Mountain Nursery who serves as creek restoration manager for Greater Lansing Area Development.
The powerful current of Big Horse Creek had long taken its toll along the creek’s banks, steadily claiming portions, but Lucas said town officials first developed a plan to combat the problem in October after Lansing officially kicked off the construction phase of its Creeper Trail Park expansion.
The Lansing park expansion is a $1.2 million project, funded by state grants and local donors, including Ashe County, according to Lightfoot.
“We realized there was big erosion on Big Horse,” Lucas said. “It was worried that the newly acquired land was eroding super fast but it was also dangerous. You could literally see the bank was cut out in places where people were walking, which had to be addressed.”
A detailed survey of the stream also found little habitat for fish and giant Hellbender salamanders.
Foggy Mountain Nursery received the go ahead from the Lansing Board of Aldermen to kick start the project in December, and secured some $50,000 in grant funding from the Fish America Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife to complete the project’s first phase. GLAD recently donated some $10,000 to the project, as well, Lucas said.
That work, which started in April, consists of a series of cross vanes, rock vanes and root wads which are designed to essentially channel water away from the creek’s edges and offer habitat for aquatic life. The banks along more than 700 feet of Big Horse Creek have been reworked and now gently slope toward the creek and the same stretch of ground now features only native plant species.
Rocks and boulders have also been planted at strategic locations in the waterway itself to channel the powerful current away from the creek’s bank, which had been badly undercut prior to the restoration.
Future work will extend similar protections further up the creek, according to Lucas and Lightfoot.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.