Cub Scouts and VHCA Partner to Raise Awareness for Protecting Our Waterways

By Jess Windham and Jack White

Water quality starts in our own backyards, an important fact that Cub Scout Pack 17 learned more about on Saturday, October 1, 2016. Informed by our Virginia-Highland Master Plan project #1.7, VHCA teamed up with the Department of Watershed Management (DWM) and an energetic group of Scouts and Webelos to install stormwater medallions on the drains closest to our most visible indicators of our watersheds: Orme Creek at Orme Park and a tributary to South Fork Peachtree Creek at Lenox-Wildwood Park Garden Park in Morningside. Many thanks to the pack and wonderful parents who came out to support the initiative.

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The timing is ironic, as recently Orme Creek was polluted from a source at a higher elevation in the watershed. A diligent crew from the City’s DWM investigated the matter, including walking in the culvert that runs under Brookridge and spending many hours finding the cause of a stinky situation. For the full story, you can read more here (link

Why does it matter what gets into our local creeks?

The answer goes beyond the beauty and enjoyment that many local citizens derive from being near those streams. All natural systems are inter-related; the macroinvertebrates in the creek, the fish, the insects, the birds, the mammals – their mutual health depends on one another.

These tributaries and creeks flow far beyond our borders, carrying with them all our accumulated impacts. This is especially prescient as you consider that water isn’t created from scratch. Energy-intensive industrial processes are required to clean water so into a potable, drinkable form we all appreciate.    

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VaHi’s Subwatersheds

Virginia-Highland has two sub-watersheds, Rock Creek and Clear Creek; both eventually flow to Peachtree Creek and on to the Chattahoochee River and the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola Bay. Appropriately-named North ‘High-land’ Avenue is broadly the boundary between them. 

Rainfall to the east of Highland flows (either underground or via several patches of surface streams) into Rock Creek, which heads north into South Peachtree in Johnson-Taylor Park in Morningside. The very top of Rock Creek is visible behind the east side of Arlington Place and – more obviously – at Amsterdam Avenue and McLynn.

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Orme Creek starts to the west of Highland, as rainfall flows downhill to the west. However most of it is channeled underground, with only a few sections – like Orme Park – above ground.  The water then flows into Clear Creek, which itself emerges onto the surface at the northern edge of Piedmont Park on its way to Ansley Mall and the Golf Course, under I-85, along the border of Brookwood, and into Peachtree Creek west of the Piedmont Road bridge near Lindberg Drive. A trip to the South Fork Confluence Trail is truly worth the trip to see it firsthand.

Inside its namesake park, Orme Creek is easy to observe and approach. Its surface life (low volume, like Rock Creek) begins behind houses between LA Avenue (on the south) and Glen Arden (on the north.)  It collects some water from underground storm drains throughout the immediate neighborhood.


Have You Checked Your Storm Drain Lately?

by Peggy Berg, Traffic/Transportation & Sidewalks chair

We live on hills and are shaded by trees. Which means rainwater runs past our homes, picking up leaves and debris, and goes down our many many storm drains, clogging the drains as it flows. I met Riley, from Atlanta’s Watershed Department, at the storm drain on Bellevue because I thought it needed a grate. He brought his shovel and in minutes dug through composted leaves to show me the existing grate, which was completely blocked. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, I’ve seen the drain on Briarcliff Terrace blocked by everything from leaf bags to old fence parts to basketballs.

Storm drains that are not maintained fill with debris and allow flooding, which can be severe. Although the City has emergency crews to deal with blocked drains and pays special attention to catch basins that flood regularly, they can neither keep ahead of random blockages nor predict where they will occur. Once the drain is blocked and floods, surrounding property owners have an expensive and messy problem.

As a prudent part of maintaining your home, look for your storm drain, check it regularly, and keep it clear. A storm drain should have a clear and visible grate (catch basin cover) which is a metal grill. The grates sit on the drain and are held in place by gravity. They get clogged with leaves, other debris, toys, and other trash up to and including full yard waste bags. Sometimes the grates get dislodged or shifted and need to be pushed back in place.

To clear a storm drain, dig it out with a rake and shovel. You will be working mostly with leaves and compost suitable for a yard bag or to use as mulch. It is not difficult to rake the grates and put the debris in a yard bag. If the grate is missing or is beyond your ability to clear, call the City Watershed Department for assistance at 404.330.6340.