We’re celebrating the clean-up of what we call Zephyr Creek, after the 1960s Ford that was wedged at the bottom of the gully. Through the work of a local metal removalist, and a bit of time scrabbling in the mud, most of the major rubbish from the creek has been extracted. Inspired by the amazing work on rainwater harvesting and riparian restoration of Brad Lancaster and organisations like the Quivera Coalition, we’ve implemented our own rustic brand of erosion control. It’s not too pretty, but it is inexpensive (free, in fact) to build and maintain, uses available resources and is easy to alter depending on its effectiveness.
After clearing the rubbish from the creek, we used an A-Frame to measure and mark the contours at two points in the steep bank. We hammered stakes at regular intervals, then built up leaky terraces using scrap construction timber from the gully itself and fallen tree branches. Some of the loose soil promptly settled behind the barriers, and in a few weeks will be planted out with indigenous plants to further stabilise the area.
Clearing junk from our creeklines has presented some conundrums. Areas that had been covered by rusty fridges and assorted garbage are now exposed to the weather, and perhaps susceptible to erosion once more.
With this in mind, we’ve had to wrestle with how cleared these creeks can really become. To remove every last human artifact would not only be costly, but may also be counter-productive as it could unnecessarily destabilise an area that has settled around some key pieces of junk.
Ultimately, we intend for the creeklines where the rubbish is gathered to be returned to bushland, our “wilderness” zones. We won’t need to access them regularly once we’ve completed revegetation and erosion control processes, and stock will be excluded, allowing the gullies to stabilise and regenerate.
So for the moment, we decided to work with a few guiding principles to help ensure a successful clean-up. Firstly we remove any rubbish that will have an adverse environmental impact (such as plastics), that are hazardous to us, that are of value (metals), or we can use as a resource. This way, we are maximising the reuse or recycling potential of this resource. Secondly, we leave rubbish that is inert (such as broken masonry) or contributing to the stability of the creek banks. This rubbish is already in reuse as natural erosion control. Finally, we only clear rubbish when we have the time and resources to implement erosion control and revegetation. The regeneration of these waterways is very much a work in progress, but with these principles and generous timelines, it all seems achievable.