The goal of this ecological planning effort is to establish a framework for the systematic development of a comprehensive restoration plan for the enhancement, restoration, use, and management of the Ash Creek estuary.
Many urban tidal estuaries have been destroyed by development or are in such poor condition that they cannot provide habitats for migrating birds, wading birds, seed oysters, hard shell clams, or finfish. Tidal estuaries are also some of the only habitats where valuable vegetation like saltmarsh cordgrass are able to grow. Additionally, tidal estuaries provide a number of ecosystem services for human communities such as storm and wave action buffering, pollutant filtration, and shoreline stabilization. When these services are lost, they are difficult to recover, and are highly costly to the anthropogenic and biotic communities alike.
Ash Creek, by contrast, is one of Connecticut’s few remaining ecologically significant tidal estuaries within a densely populated urban area. The Ash Creek tidal estuary serves as a wildlife sanctuary for nesting birds, shellfish, and finfish. It is also a breeding ground for horseshoe crabs, and an important area for seed oyster and hard shell clam beds. The estuary’s location along the Atlantic Flyway makes it a prime stopover and feeding location for migratory shorebirds along the Connecticut shoreline. It also serves as flood control for surrounding areas and captures some upstream pollutants prior to their infiltration into Long Island Sound. Tidal wetland vegetation in the estuary stabilizes the shoreline and prevents erosion.
In addition to its wildlife and plant habitat, the estuary provides opportunities for human recreation such as walking, nature watching, kayaking, and non-mechanized boating. Several local schools also use the estuary for environmental education. School programs use outdoor activities to help students discover the principles of river basin systems and their inter-relationships with other important natural systems and with humans.
Given the immense biotic and social value of the Ash Creek Estuary, various stakeholders have invested in the study and protection of the estuary. One Nature's preliminary study, generously funded by the Fairfield County Community Foundation, by the Watershed Assistance Small Grants Program conducted in association with the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act as administered by Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, and by professional pro bono contributions, is intended to establish a trajectory towards a comprehensive strategy for the restoration, use, and management of the estuary. It is intended as a starting point, a way to organize thinking and concerns about the estuary, a point of departure for understanding what is already known and what still needs to be known, and a road map for further action.