Grants Fund Ecological Master Plan for Ash Creek



GRANTS FUND FIRST ECOLOGICAL MASTER PLAN FOR ASH CREEK TIDAL ESTUARY


Fairfield County Community Foundation Donates $5,000; Watershed Assistance Small Grants Program Donates $5,000; and Ecological Consultants Offer In-Kind Donations for Ash Creek Conservation Association Project


BRIDGEPORT, JULY 2012 – At the border of one of America’s most iconic post-industrial cities an amazing natural phenomenon can be found – a vibrant, ecologically sound tidal estuary teeming with shorebirds, finfish, shellfish, and aquatic plants.  Inner city children can walk or bike to see herons, egrets, and osprey, residents can kayak, canoe, or walk along the sidewalks that line its shores, and bird watchers come from many areas to enjoy one of the 17 most important migratory bird flyways in Connecticut. 


The Ash Creek Conservation Association is developing anEcological Master Plan for the Ash Creek Tidal Estuary. This will result in a narrative, map and drawings that ACCA will use to educate the public and provide scientific data for future watershed projects.   Funding for this project comes through three sources.  The Fairfield County Community Foundation has provided a $5,000 grant.  The Watershed Assistance Small Grants Program, conducted in association with the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.  The small grants program is administered by Rivers Alliance of Connecticut. They have also provided a $5,000 grant for the project.  In-kind donations have also been provided by two ecological consultants: Steve Danzer of Steven Danzer Ph.D. & Associates LLC, a professional wetlands scientist, and Bryan Quinn, a specialist in ecological habitat restoration.


Milan Bull, Senior Director of Science and Conservation for the Connecticut Audubon Society supports the project stating that, “The Ash Creek tidal estuary is an important, key component in the string of stopover habitats for migrant shorebirds (and other bird species) that begins as far north as Baffin Island in northern Canada and may end as far south as Argentina.  As many of these important stopover habitats are degraded by development and pollution, it is rare to find a healthy estuarine environment, complete with the prerequisite mud flats and salt marshes such as currently exists at Ash Creek.  Even rarer are the local, grassroots environmental organizations willing to spend the time and effort to protect these critical resources.”


The Ash Creek tidal estuary is a wonderful natural resource of immense importance in the ecological life of Long Island Sound. It plays a significant role in the support and sustenance ofa rich variety of bird, plant, and marine life, contributes to flood control, and acts as a filter for pollution and waste.  Ash Creek is part of the Rooster River watershed and consists of the tidal portion of the Rooster River. The Rooster River becomes Ash Creek in the vicinity of the Brewster Street Bridge, and flows down to St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea where it enters the Sound. Ash Creek is considered a tidal estuary since it is a large tidal water body which connects to the Sound.  Its shallowness and proximity to high density residential areas makes it an important, but fragile ecosystem requiring ongoing monitoring and protection.


      Ash Creek has been suffering human impacts for a long time. An earlier grassroots environmental organization formed in 1967 effectively stopped fill activity by shoreline owners, and removed 28 tons of trash from Ash Creek.  That earlier organization was active for 20 years (until 1987).  During the 16 year period when there was no grassroots organization to protect Ash Creek illegal fill and other development activity was poorly monitored.  Trash once again began to litter the shoreline and poorly planned developments began to take their toll.    In 2003, the Ash Creek Conservation Association (ACCA) was formed by local residents to protect the tidal estuary.


For the current project, ACCA has assembled an Advisory Committee consisting of the primary municipal and state stakeholders: Tom Steinke, Director of the Town of Fairfield’s Conservation Department; Steve Hladun, Project Coordinator for the City of Bridgeport’s Parks Department, and State Representative Auden Grogins for the State of Connecticut.  Mayor Finch called this project, “a great first step of an important initiative: to bring additional environmental stewardship and an awareness component to the benefit of the City of Bridgeport.”  One of the Advisory Committee members, Thomas Steinke, endorsed the plan adding that, “The members of the Ash Creek Conservation Association are tireless in their efforts to protect the creek, and their effectiveness could be focused and magnified with completion of an effective habitat master plan for the Ash Creek tidal estuary”


Updates on the project can be found on this site or on ACCA’s Facebook Page.