Spy Run Creek being returned to natural look in Franke Park

The bank of a section of Spy Run Creek in Franke Park has been cleared to get ready for a stream enhancement project that will return the creek to looking more like a natural stream. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Concrete and other debris once used to stabilize the banks of Spy Run Creek will be removed as part of a stream enhancement project on a section of the creek in Franke Park. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
The stream enhancement work on Spy Run Creek in Franke Park will include installing rock outcroppings like this one at the main pond at Lakeside Park. People can use the rocks to get down close to the stream for fishing or other activities. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
The first phase of stream enhancement work on Spy Run Creek will take place between the pedestrian bridges linking the park and Foellinger Outdoor Theatre. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

The section of Spy Run Creek in Franke Park appears barren now, with its banks cleared of trees and invasive honeysuckle bushes.

It will look totally different by late summer as the creek meanders through a natural-looking setting of trees, plants and rock outcroppings.

The Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department will take construction bids through April 5 to for work as part of the Spy Run Creek Enhancement Project.

The work is being done in phases to spread out the cost, so the first phase involves about 1,800 feet of the creek between the two pedestrian bridges linking the park to Foellinger Outdoor Theatre, said Alec Johnson, a city landscape architect working with the parks department.

The total project includes about 7,300 feet of Spy Run Creek from Sherman Boulevard to a maintenance area in the southwest corner of the park, Johnson said.

The estimated cost for this first phase is $260,000, but grants will pay for about $241,000 of the cost, he said. The parks department likely will pay only about $10,000 of its own funds and provide about $10,000 of in-kind services.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources approached the parks department about the stream enhancement work a few years ago, Johnson said.

The project goals are:

• Restore the natural character of the creek.

• Stabilize its banks to reduce soil erosion.

• Provide better habitat for fish.

• Create educational and interactive water access opportunities for the public.

“For me, the biggest thing is just to get people to the water,” Johnson said.

Many people don’t know the creek flows there because it has been surrounded by trees and brush, he said. If people can get to the water and interact with the stream, they may care more about other rivers and streams, he added.

The construction work will include removing chunks of concrete and other debris placed in the stream to prevent bank erosion, Johnson said. The slope of the stream’s steep banks will be reduced to create a more gradual slope to the water and allow the stream to spread out and slow down during times of high water.

Currently, bank erosion washes land away from the park and deposits eroded soil in the St. Marys River, Johnson said.

After crews complete the earthwork on the creek banks, native trees and many native plants will be planted along the stream, Johnson said. Rocks also will be placed the stream to create riffles and deeper pools of water to provide better habitat for fish.

The stream currently supports a low-quality fish community consisting mainly of green sunfish, creek chubs and white suckers, a project report said. The Indiana DNR also stocks rainbow trout in the creek each April to encourage fishing there.

The stream enhancement project also will include installing rock outcroppings on the stream banks to allow people to step down to the creek’s edge to fish or take part in other activities, Johnson said. The rock outcroppings will be similar to those installed around the edges of Lakeside Park’s main pond.

Staff from the parks department and Franke Park Day Camp then can organize activities at the creek, such as biological experiments and fish counts, he said.

Construction work on the project possibly could start as early as May 10, but contractors may have to wait longer until any spring flooding subsides, Johnson said.

ABOUT SPY RUN CREEK

• Tributary flowing into the St. Marys River, which joins the St. Joseph River in downtown Fort Wayne to form the Maumee River

• Drains an area of about 15 square miles

• Average water flow of 18 cubic feet per second

• Bank erosion and impaired water quality caused by erratic changes in water flow and increasing discharge amounts related to historic loss of wetlands, ditching, agricultural drainage tile installation, and expanding residential and commercial development

Source: “Spy Run Creek Enhancement Project” report

FUNDING HELP

Grant funding will pay for most of the cost for the first phase of stream enhancement work on Spy Run Creek in Franke Park. The grants total $241,000:

• Indiana Department of Natural Resources Lake and River Enhancement grant: $100,000

• Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant: $100,000

• National Association of Clean Water Agencies grant: $30,000

• Maumee River Basin Commission grant: $7,500

• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant: $3,500

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