Effort launched to tame stream in Timonium, restore meandering Patchwork straightening of Spring Branch leads to destructive torrents

March 27, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Residents along a Timonium stream are skeptical -- but hopeful -- that a trickle-turned-torrent behind their homes can be tamed by an ambitious plan to restore it to a natural state.

In a $500,000 project jointly funded by the state and county, the natural meander of Spring Branch would be restored. Boulders and tree stumps would replace concrete chutes and years of patchwork repairs along a two-mile section.

Plans for the stream -- which begins north of Timonium Road and flows south, then east beside Cinder Road and into Loch Raven Reservoir -- will be explained at a meeting at 7: 30 tonight at Dulaney High School held by the county Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management.

The four-month project, planned to start in June, would begin near Killoran Road and end at Pot Spring Road and Deer Fox Lane, passing about 150 homes along Spring Branch and an unnamed tributary. These two streams meet south of Hollowbrook Road, between Springside and Greenmeadow drives -- creating the most troublesome section.

At this junction, erosion from rushing storm water has carved a gorge about 10 feet deep and 15 feet across, and torn away chunks of lawn -- along with shrubs and trees. Pieces of fence and oil drums lie among chunks of concrete that bear witness to previous, unsuccessful repairs.

On Springside Drive, Chandler and Betty Freund and Richard and Mary Ann Brown recalled moving in about 30 years ago, when their children could walk down a gradual slope at the rear of their properties and hop across the creek.

"It was a trickle, less than 1 foot wide and 6 inches deep, when we moved here -- 33 years ago this April," Mrs. Freund said.

Daniel Freeman, an engineer who moved in about three years ago, expressed concern about safety because water undercuts the stream bank behind his property, leaving dangerous overhangs.

"Our bank's probably the worst one," Mr. Freeman said. "A few years ago, we had a 6- to 8-foot section drop all at once off the yard."

Mr. Brown met John J. Smialkowski Sr. of Greenmeadow Drive as they commiserated over the widening gap between their two back yards, and tried to get the county to act. Mr. Smialkowski has been writing to his councilman since 1991 and went door to door with a petition about the problem several years ago.

Although reluctant to get his hopes up, Mr. Smialkowski said, "It's gotten worse. Whatever they can do to prevent it, I'm for it. I think it's a good idea not to use concrete, to keep the regular habitat."

Candace L. Szabad, a county natural resources specialist, said several concrete channels would be removed in an attempt to get the streambed's depth and width back to a natural proportion. Storm water drains from as far north as Padonia Road, she explained, "and when it rains and all that water hits that concrete, it's like a flume there where it hits that bend."

She explained that the artificial straightening of the stream in years past increased the velocity of the water, unlike "a natural meander which slows the stream," she said.

In addition to restoring that meander, she said, a series of step pools will be created for the water flowing down the slope, and trees and shrubs will be planted to help stabilize the banks.

One who disagrees with the plan is Robert Johnson, who has lived for 25 years north of Hollowbrook Road, where manicured lawns slope gradually to one of the straight concrete chutes. He said he plans to attend the meeting and denounce the plan as "a waste of money."

Ms. Szabad said six similar projects are in the design stage. The most ambitious is White Marsh Run, including the main, north and south forks.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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