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Monday October 24, 2016
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Soft Healing at the Arb



"I became aware of the erosion problems back in the mid- to early 1990s," says Grese. "Liz Elling, who was an employee here at the Arboretum, was working on her master's degree at the School of Natural Resources. She did a poster, showing the amount of water running off the cemetery into School Girl's Glen. Here was this neglected, wonderful place in the Arboretum that was badly eroding."

Don Gray remembers it this way: "Twenty acres of cemetery land draining down the roadway. After a good rain, you had to hike your trouser legs up in order to cross the stream to enter the Arb."

Another master's student, Zayn Gregory, found that School Girls' Glen was losing the equivalent of 480 cubic yards of earth per year. Each day, a pick-up truck's worth of soil, about 1.3 cubic yards, was sliding into the river, always at the same point. Over time, the dirt was plainly visible in the landscape and the river.

Gray and Grese wanted to use "bioengineering" or "soft engineering" to control the erosion-techniques such as live staking that mimic nature-to slow down the storm-water and keep the soils from being flushed into the river. Gray literally wrote the textbooks on these methods.

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