DAPHNE – The boardwalk along Wells Road overlooks a stream flowing over rocks and through pools as the water makes its way north into Mobile Bay.
The stream draining into Tiawassee Creek has become part of the effort to improve water quality and to educate school children and the public about how to protect the environment, Ashley Campbell, Daphne environmental programs manager, said.
“If you had been here before we did this, you’d have just seen a ditch on the side of the road,” Campbell said. “Now, this is a way to educate people about stormwater management and what we all can do to protect the watershed.”
Signs along the boardwalk describe the native plants and wildlife that can be found in wetlands, such as the one created on the waterway. Rock formations built along the waterway are not for aesthetics, but slow down the flow of water, cutting the energy of the current and reducing erosion.
Pools between the rocks allow the water to slow and deposit sediment rather than carrying it downstream to be deposited in D’Olive Bay or Mobile Bay.
The location, on city property east of Baldwin County 13 and just south of Daphne East Elementary School and Daphne Middle School, is an ideal site for the project, she said.
“We’re at the headwaters of Tiawassee Creek right here,” she said. “We’re right next to the school. The kids can walk over and see what we’ve done and how we can protect the environment. What we’ve done here is construct a wetland. That’s a natural filter for stormwater, sorting out whatever goes into the water before it gets downstream.”
The education effort extends beyond the stream. Campbell pointed to the different paving materials on the sidewalk along Wells Road.
“On most paved areas, the water runs off the concrete or asphalt. It doesn’t have a chance to soak into the ground as it would if it fell on the ground,” she said and pointed to a darker material on the sidewalk. “That’s porous concrete. It allows the water to run back into the ground.”
She also pointed to an area covered in paving bricks. “A lot of people like the pavers,” she said. “They’re also designed to let the water flow through. You have to dig down to set this up, putting down sand and gravel so the water can flow and not just sit on top of the ground. It takes some effort.”
The project at Wells Road cost about $100,000, Campbell said. Most of the money came from a grant from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management with city crews doing the majority of the work.
The project is part of a more extensive effort by cities, educators, Baldwin County and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program to protect the watershed of the Mobile Bay area. Other protection efforts are in place at Daphne Elementary and areas to the north, Campbell said.
The overall effort to restore the D’Olive Bay watershed, which includes Tiawassee Creek was recognized in