Bristol Municipal Golf Course Project
Bristol’s municipally-owned nine-hole golf course consists of 26+ acres of open space that was historically part of a larger private 18-hole course that was sold for development in the early 1980’s. Since that time the course has been owned by the Town of Bristol and leased to a private operator.
The Town of Bristol is working to restore the freshwater wetlands at the Bristol Golf Course with the goals of improving the water quality of two tributaries that flow into Narragansett Bay – Silver Creek which flows south to Bristol Harbor, and an unnamed coastal stream which flows north to the Warren River. Restoration efforts will also increase flood storage capacity within the watersheds and enhance functions of freshwater wetland habitat. Restoration activities will also substantially improve the playability of the golf course and enhance public access and enjoyment of the property.
The Town has designed and permitted a restoration project at the Bristol Golf Course which includes removing small impoundments within the course, removing fill adjacent to streams, daylighting piped streams and restoring a buffer of native shrubs, trees and grasses between the course and the streams.
Previously, the golf course provided an ideal habitat for Canada geese. The geese fed in large numbers throughout the fall and winter on the golf course, and with no buffer between the turf and wetland areas, goose waste washed directly into ponds and streams.
By converting the land use of areas surrounding streams and ponds from managed turf to native wetland vegetation, the restoration effort will reduce the feeding area for geese, reduce the amount of nutrient-rich runoff from the managed turf, and create a natural filter between the streams and surrounding developments.
This project not only functions to improve the water quality and stormwater drainage of the streams and ponds along the course, but it is improving the natural ecosystem and allowing native wildlife to live comfortably on the land without negatively affecting water quality or pedestrian access.
Permits were secured from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) Wetlands Section, and construction commenced in fall 2020. The project incorporates and retains a nine-hole golf course, although in a modified layout as seen on the Master Plan image.
The project also includes a robust public outreach and public engagement component with many stakeholders including Bristol Department of Parks and Recreation, Golf Course Committee, Save the Bay, Save Bristol Harbor, Mt. Hope High School, and the Bristol Conservation Commission. Volunteers from these organizations have provided input into the project design and assisted in the field with planting over 1,600 native shrubs and trees.
The Town has prepared a quality assurance program plan (QAPP) that governs water quality monitoring in order to evaluate outcomes of the project. Community Outreach will be ongoing during the project and beyond. The Town will also prepare an Ecological Management Plan for the golf course to ensure that the results of this project are maintained going forward.
The Town’s public outreach and education efforts include informational signage panels (pictured below) to be installed upon completion of construction activities.
Funding for the Bristol Golf Course water quality improvements has been provided by generous grants from the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s, Southeast New England Program (SNEP) and Restore Americas Estuaries; the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Water Resources Nonpoint Source Program, and the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank.
Bristol Town Common Masterplan
This project is the creation of a stormwater management and landscape improvement Master Plan for the Bristol Town Common. Creation of the master plan will allow the Town to make informed coordinated decisions regarding future improvements and amenities at this culturally and historically important landscape and will limit runoff from untreated surfaces that discharges to street drains and into nearby Bristol Harbor. Funding for this project has been generously provided via a technical assistance grant from the New England Environmental Finance Center, Southeast New England Network (SNEP Network) under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Bristol Town Common is an approximate eight acre parcel centrally located within downtown Bristol. The Town Common contains multiple amenities that are used by the public, but it is often overlooked as an historic landscape and suffers from a combination of overuse and improper siting of amenities. Where the Town Common once was the center of civic life and cultural activities, it is now thought of more as a park and is used for organized entertainment events such as the annual 4th of July carnival, church festivals, and weekly concerts during the warm weather months
Amenities and features installed on the Town Common were often placed without any coordination or thought of a “big picture” plan for the overall landscape and stormwater impacts. The property was developed over the years without any real thought to drainage or stormwater management. Trees are planted in close proximity to each other or in otherwise inappropriate locations; benches, lighting, playground equipment, athletic courts, and walkways have increased the impervious area of the Common. In addition, large events include vehicles for equipment set-up and heavy foot traffic that compact soils and deteriorate vegetation and lead to significant runoff and erosion. As such, runoff from the Town Common is an issue that has resulted in scouring of soils and damage to the landscape. Excess runoff during frequent heavy precipitation events is concentrated as overland flow from impervious and compacted surfaces and directed across sidewalks and pathways towards storm drains within the surrounding street network
The Town of Bristol will utilize the technical assistance grant to evaluate the Town Common property and identify technical design solutions for ways in which green infrastructure and appropriate landscaping features can be used to reduce the volume of runoff from this historic property. The Town is in need of an overall master plan to include future changes with appropriate landscaping materials including removal of pavement and other impervious surfaces; plans for tree plantings, and selective tree removals; as well as broad stroke recommendations for locations of outdoor activities and amenities that work with the land and existing landscape to include mitigation of stormwater runoff.
Technical assistance provided by the SNEP Network included a team of engineering, planning, and landscape architecture staff from the multi-disciplinary consulting firm Fuss & O’Neill; as well as representatives from the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension NEMO Program, the University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center, the Rhode Island School of Design, Save the Bay, and Audubon Society of Rhode Island. The Team worked with local stakeholders including representatives of Bristol’s Department of Community Development, Parks and Recreation, Historic District Commission, and Conservation Commission. A report titled Bristol Town Common Stormwater Management and Conceptual Master Plan was completed by Fuss & O’Neill in September 2021 and was presented to the Bristol Town Council in December. The Town will use this plan and its recommendations to guide future implementation and grant applications. Concepts and design images depicted and described in the report are examples and would be subject to final design and approvals.
Walley Beach Seawall Repair Project
On behalf of the Town of Bristol, we are pleased to announce the Walley Beach/ Halsey C. Herreshoff Park Seawall Repair Project. The project will restore the existing seawall, which retains the elevated lawn associated with this active seaside park. Proposed activities will additionally replace material lost to wave action along the landward side of the seawall and provide protective measures for the lawn.
With respect to the seawall proper, the project will replace the existing concrete cap through the entire project limits and replace missing stones on the seaward face of the wall, up to a maximum 150 square feet.
Over the years, overtopping waves have scoured material from behind the wall and, in turn, have deposited gravel-sized stones. The project will restore this area to original grade and will armor the scour zone via installation of plantable, scour-resistant, geo-grid material to be seeded with salt-tolerant creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra L. var.).
A recent addition to the project has been enhanced public access to the shoreline features, based on local community input. An existing access point will be enhanced for increased public safety, and two new access points will be created. The existing access point is located at a low seawall section that is readily walked over, and the project proposes to better define its location via the creation of a walkway and steps on its approach to the seawall. To avoid work seaward of the wall, the new access points will be created landward of the seawall by excavating adjacent earthen material and creating a concrete and granite sidewalk and step system through the wall. The new access points will be completely armored to prevent erosive wave action.
We believe that the project as designed complies fully with the goals and standards of the RI Coastal Resources Management Program. Work will be confined to man-made coastal features, no footprint changes in the position of the seawall are proposed, and maintenance, restoration, and scour protection of the existing public facility are the primary project goals. The project will maintain and protect the integrity of the seawall and park, while preserving and increasing public access opportunities and maintaining and enhancing pedestrian safety.
Silver Creek Channel Restoration (Leila Jean Drive)
The purpose of this project is the mitigation of inland flooding of Leila Jean Drive and other roadways and properties in the surrounding residential neighborhoods, adjacent Mt. Hope High School property, and parts of Chestnut Street (a major collector road between Routes 114 and 136) as a result of more frequent, high intensity rain storms associated with the East Branch of Silver Creek.
This project will restore the riverine attributes of the wetland corridor by responsible removal of accumulated sediments and blockages that are choking stream flows, exacerbating flood storage, and degrading fish and wildlife habitat.
The segment of Silver Creek, targeted for restoration, is ±950 feet in length and is located entirely within FEMA-mapped 100-year floodplains.
Despite its low-lying setting, Leila Jean Drive was initially constructed in the absence of a complete roadway drainage system, and frequent ponding on the road and in yards was a common occurrence during precipitation events and when the river’s banks would be overtopped during flood events. A closed drainage system was installed in 1997 that solved drainage deficiencies associated with the road surface proper, but flooding problems persisted in the neighborhood. The flooding situations are worsened with the high intensity storm events that have been occurring in the early Spring when the ground is still frozen, in combination with Spring snowmelt as well as the short duration heavy rain storms that occur during the summer.
The subject segment of Silver Creek exhibits a low-gradient channel set in fine-textured soils and is prone to significant accumulations of sediments, overhanging brush, fouled branches, leaves, and debris. In the absence of an appreciable flow gradient, channel velocities appear to be insufficient to naturally flush the channel. Consequently, build-up of sediments and debris has been increasing over the years to the extent that it now is causing damming effects at several locations, making the river increasingly susceptible to overtopping and frequent inundation of roadways, yards, and driveways due to the increased precipitation as a result of climate change.
Additionally, dense growth of overhanging shrubs has trapped solid masses of leaves, which in turn has trapped sediments that in some areas has become sufficiently severe to form dense sediment bars.
The proposed work is expected to result in improved drainage and less frequent flooding events as well as improved habitat for a number of years. The project will create a more healthy riparian ecosystem and remove material that clogs the waterbody and which impact the habitat for fish and wildlife. Upon project completion, fish and wildlife habitat attributes of the stream are expected to be enhanced, and areas of the project disturbance on the surrounding streambank are expected to fully restore within one growing season.
Mt. Hope High School Stormwater Masterplan
The Mt. Hope High School property, located on Chestnut Street and Naomi Street in Bristol, Rhode Island contain approximately 46 acres of land within the Silver Creek Watershed. Although the Mt. Hope High School property and surrounding land is owned by the Town of Bristol (the Town), it is operated and managed by the Bristol-Warren Regional School District (BWRSD).
The Mt. Hope High School was constructed in the early 1960’s by filling areas of wetlands and channelizing a portion of the east branch of Silver Creek which runs through building sites, parking lots, and driveways on the property. All of the impervious surfaces from the high school, including roof runoff and parking lot runoff flows untreated to Silver Creek and contributes to water quality impairments to the stream.
The Silver Creek watershed is impaired by high nitrogen and bacteria levels according to a decade’s worth of data collected by Save Bristol Harbor and analyzed through URI’s Watershed Watch program. The area of the high school and the adjacent roadways are also located within a floodplain and experiences significant flooding during storm events which creates impacts for both the school and the Town.
The Town has been working on the restoration of the Silver Creek watershed for much of the last two decades. Over the years the Town and school department have undertaken several incremental projects to improve the athletic fields and recreational areas at Mt. Hope High School; however, there has never been an overall plan to address water quality and storm water issues comprehensively with Low Impact Development (LID) techniques and nature-based solutions. There are so many opportunities for LID improvements on the property that an overall plan to provide a framework for future engineering design and implementation needs to be developed.
In 2019, the Town was awarded grant funding through the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission with funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Southeast New England Program (SNEP) to evaluate the high school property and to create an overall master plan. The result of this project is a consensus master plan document with recommended water quality treatments and a priority list of storm water management projects that will be implemented in phases or together depending on future funding.
Click ‘Download’ to view a PowerPoint presentation on this project, as well as the final Project Report.
Guiteras School Stormwater Retrofit Project
The Town of Bristol has undertaken a multi-faceted approach to address water quality concerns within Silver Creek and Bristol Harbor. The Guiteras School Stormwater Retrofit Project is an important part of this larger effort to improve water quality and restore habitats within Silver Creek; and will also provide outdoor educational opportunities for local elementary school children. This successful project included installation of stormwater best management practices (BMP’s) to capture, redirect, and treat stormwater runoff from impervious (building roofs, pavement) and compacted turf surfaces on the property to limit the transport of pollutants and improve overall water quality within Silver Creek and Bristol Harbor.
The goal for the landscape was for it to be a resource for the teachers, students and the community, however the property was in rough shape. There were significant erosion issues and the Silver Creek environment was being damaged by stormwater run-off pollution from the extensive amount of asphalt, and the roof of the building. Not only was the parking lot a source of runoff, it was also a source of many an aggravated driver, with poorly planned vehicle circulation and parking, and unsafe pedestrian circulation.
During constructions much of the pavement at the site was removed, and the driveway and parking areas were redesigned to improve circulation and safety while also directing runoff to several treatment and infiltration areas. Once completed, over 5,000 square feet of impervious pavement cover had been removed.
The heart of the project was the installation of several bioretention areas to capture, treat, and infiltrate runoff from pavement and roofs. Construction off the bioretention areas included excavation of native soils and the installation of shallow depressions filled with organic sandy soils that are mulched and planted at the surface with native shrubs, grasses and perennials. Storm water runoff is retained within these depressions and infiltrates into the subsurface where it is filtered by the soil, and pollutants and nutrients are broken down by microorganisms or taken up by the plants. Excess runoff infiltrates to an underdrain pipe where clean treated water is discharged towards Silver Creek.
In the fall of 2015 students and teachers returned to school and found the property completely transformed. The feedback was very positive. Staff and parents liked the improved parking and sidewalks, and appreciated the outdoor learning environment called the “Discovery Garden”. In just the few seasons since the project was completed, students have harvested multiple rounds of both spring and fall vegetables in the raised beds.
Since then, work has continued to further engage the students and teachers in the space and provide easy access for outdoor learning. We have added a walking path through the space, log benches for outdoor classes, and a boardwalk which spans the bioswale from the Discovery Garden area over to the lawn and outdoor classroom space.
In order to sustain the space, work must continue to engage the whole community. A Spring Garden Party is held annually, where we offer garden related activities and invite in local groups to perform, thereby spreading knowledge of the space beyond just the school community. Fall and spring clean ups are also held annually, leaving most of the plants standing through the winter and cutting back all herbaceous material in the early spring.