Johnson Creek habitat restoration gets underway this summer
Posted on 06/29/2020
This rendering shows how the banks of the creek will be rebuilt.After years in the making, work begins this summer to rebuild the Johnson Creek riverbank and pond at Fish Hatchery Park and restore the natural habitat along the Middle Rouge River, which will substantially improve not only the park area but also the Rouge watershed.

Anglin Civil, LLC, of Livonia, was awarded a contract in the amount of $963,090 to perform the earth-moving and restoration work. The work will bring to life a design created last year by Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc. (ECT) of Ann Arbor, with engineering support from Soil Materials and Engineers (SME). SME designed the wall replacement that keeps the pond separate from the creek.

The Alliance of Rouge Communities (ARC) secured a $3 million grant from the EPA to fund this project and a larger project at another location outside of Northville. ARC has contracted with ECT to manage construction administration of the project, which is expected to be completed by early fall. ECT often works with ARC on water-based, environmental projects in the Rouge water shed.

ARC is dedicated to maintaining water quality around the Rouge River as a nonprofit organization comprised of 35 cities, towns and villages in the Rouge watershed as well as Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties, and several non-government organizations. Formed in 2003, ARC takes a leading role to meet water quality permit requirements and restore beneficial uses of the Rouge River, which feeds into the Detroit River, where our drinking water is drawn.

The City and Township of Northville entered into an interagency agreement with ARC to provide quality assurance for the project and, if costs go over the allotted amount and can’t be adjusted or recouped, the agreement calls for the City and Township to split the cost of those over-runs.

Northville Parks and Recreation Director Mark Gasche has shepherded this project through the multi-phase improvements since he joined the department in the summer of 2016. Several years ago, the concrete wall that separated the pond from the creek had to be rebuilt because it was cracked and there was a risk of the pond draining into the creek, which would have been an environment hazard and costly to repair. The work being done this summer now will replace the wall with a natural earthen berm held in place by sheet metal pilings driven into the ground.

The park will have more inviting green space as the full length of Johnson Creek is revealed. The earthen berm will serve the same function as the wall, keeping the creek separate from the pond. The bank will have tiered levels, landscaped with native plants with openings along the way so park visitors can go to the creek’s edge.

“You can’t see the creek right now because it's covered by brush and overgrowth,” said Gasche. “It will be completely opened up. There will be small trees planted and native plants that line the bank on the park side.”

Fish Hatchery Park will remain open during construction with limited access to some areas. The ball fields won’t be in use this summer or fall, and the pavilion will be open but not available for rent. The tennis courts will be open and Parks and Recreation also offers tennis lessons there. There will be less park to walk around due to material staging areas and heavy equipment, and signs will alert visitors of what’s closed and when to use caution. Eventually, Parks and Recreation plans to improve the trail, which can be accessed by a pedestrian bridge. At that time, some of the dead, fallen trees will be removed from the nearby woods to clear the trail.

The Rouge River watershed is a designated Area of Concern (AOC) under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) and has three Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) associated with fish and wildlife habitat: degraded fish and wildlife populations, degradation of benthos (the flora and fauna found on the bottom of the creek), and loss of fish and wildlife habitat.

The Rouge River Advisory Council (RRAC), the Public Advisory Council (PAC) for the Rouge AOC, in March 2016 approved a list of projects that need to be completed to remove the Rouge AOC habitat BUIs. The Johnson Creek Fish Hatchery Park Habitat Restoration Project will go a long way toward renewing a healthy eco-system in the Middle Rouge River and throughout the Rouge River watershed. Plus, it will become a beautiful site to visit and commune with nature.

The park has historical significance as one of the largest fish hatcheries in the U.S. and is one of the few cold-water creeks in southeast Michigan. View other sketches of the design for concept and vegetation.