Parkerson Mill Creek: An AU Treasure Worth Preserving

Post contributed by Tom McCauley, Manager, Risk Management and Safety

As the warm weather considers giving way to Fall, as the trees begin to lose their leaves, as construction creates a new campus skyline and as students make their way down the Haley concourse, Parkerson Mill Creek which flows  through campus is often overlooked. Parkerson Mill Creek which is believed to originate near Toomers corner has been piped and built upon for years by the University.  Although occupants of Parker and Allison Halls have heard the ripple below the buildings from time to time, the main tributary of Parkerson Mill Creek does not show itself until Donahue drive at the Wellness Kitchen and Beard Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Throughout the years, PMC has been poked and prodded, monitored and measured and unfortunately has been determined to have been negatively impacted by urban development and non-point source pollution.  Trash and sediment can be seen filling the crevices of the creek bottom while elevated levels of bacteria flow through campus unseen by the human eye.  In 2014, Parkerson Mill Creek received a much needed restoration as part of the Wellness Kitchen project.  The restoration effort entailed widening the floodplain so the streambanks could withstand high flows, removal of stream debris and overgrowth, seeding with native plants to combat the proliferation of invasive plant species and the creation of an outdoor classroom.

Policies administered by AU Facilities Management have been created to formalize the University’s position to meet our regulatory responsibilities while also preserving our natural resources.  The University Campus Master Plan serves as a guide to campus growth with storm water management and natural resource preservation serving as key components that will help shape campus for years to come.  Innovative storm water management measures such as bio retention basins or rain gardens are being installed throughout campus.

A bio-retention cell outside the new nursing building on South Donahue.
A bio-retention cell outside the new nursing building on South Donahue.

Multiple bio-retention cells can be seen surrounding the newly constructed Nursing Building on Donahue Drive are designed to utilize soils and herbaceous plants to remove pollutants from storm water runoff.  They also act as a floodplain by dissipating the velocity and decreasing the heat of storm water.  The installation of these type “low impact” measures further demonstrates AU’s commitment towards preserving our natural resources by protecting it where possible from the damaging effects of large rain events.

AU is often acclaimed for our academic successes and certainly highlighted for our championship teams but AU is and can be much more than that; we can be a leader in storm water management and natural resource preservation.  As a institute for higher education we should lead by example and should strive to protecting Parkerson Mill Creek and the watershed as a whole from the day to day damages seen on campus, preserve this natural resource by implementing the Campus Master Plan and by creating outdoor learning areas to promote the beauty that is the Loveliest Village on the Plains.

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