Living Streamside: How to Protect Your Watershed

Julie Slavet
Apr 24, 2013

TTF (the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership) is a partner with the Friends of High School Park in the We All Live Downstream three-part workshop series. The purpose of the series is to engage Cheltenham residents in protecting the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed.

Each workshop addresses a different water pollution solution. The three workshops are riparian buffers, rain gardens, trees, and rain barrels. Because all of our properties are different, the same solution won’t work for everyone — that’s why having workshops on different options is valuable.

Living Streamside workshop attendees listening intently.

At the Living Streamside workshop, TTF educator Molly Finch shared how to promote healthy streams with plantings, specifically riparian buffers.

Riparian buffers, or stream buffers, is the name given to the land on either side of a stream that acts as a transition space from the stream to the upland. Stream buffers are important when it comes to water quality for lots of reasons, but a big one is how they help reduce the amount of water pollution entering the stream. Healthy buffers have lots of trees and other native plants, which slow down and suck up water moving over the land. By slowing the water down and taking in the water through its roots, plants allow time for heavy pollutants to drop out of the water so that they don’t reach the stream.


A common misunderstanding is that all plants are created equal when it comes to stormwater management. This is definitely not the case, mainly because of plant roots. The difference between turfgrass and native plant roots is extreme as seen in this root profile diagram. The more surface area (or root pieces) that are in the soil, the more water is taken up by the plant. Also, the deeper the roots, the more space the roots make for water to soak deeper into the ground instead of running off into the stream. The tiny root systems found in turfgrass cause it to act more like cement than like green space to absorb waterf. This is why native plants are so important.

Words like “riparian buffer” can be intimidating, so this workshop was meant to empower people with resources that make the technicalities of planting more accessible. It’s not as hard as the big words make it seem! While not everyone has the Tookany Creek running through their backyards, there are many community spaces that could use a good buffer too and just need a leader to get the ball rolling.

Interested in attending one of the future workshops? The Living Streamside and Planting a Rain Garden have already been a great success, so visit Friends of High School Park and sign up to learn about trees and rain barrels.

The Power of Trees: A Special Tour and Tree Sale at Collins Nursery

Saturday, April 27, 10 am to 12 Noon

Collins Nursery, 773 Roslyn Avenue, Glenside 19038

Rain Barrels and You: Save Money, Protect Streams

Saturday, May 11, 10 am to 11:30 am

The Frame House, 7900 High School Road, Elkins Park 19027

Questions? Contact us at TTF at 215-844-8100.

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