People Places Along Your Stream
* Potential permits required: CWA 404, Threatened & Endangered Species, NHPA, Floodplain
* Heavy equipment may be required: Depending on project size and details.
Materials and Tools needed
varies by project.
Similar to any property, creating people places is an important part of your home. Creating them along a stream involves some unique considerations to make sure you are not damaging the stream system or putting yourself or others at risk. Added People Places can provide:
• Access to the stream
• Opportunities for activities, gathering & relaxation
• Wildlife habitat
• Streambank stability
Access to and across the stream may be a part of your property’s plan.
Photo courtesy of: Rick Kauvar
The stream is likely an important piece of what makes your property unique. Most people want to ‘use’ the stream, whether for recreation, viewing or being next to. This strategy sheet will go over some important considerations to take into account when you are creating people places along the stream, as well as access to the stream.
Patios and gathering spaces: Patios can provide your property with a gathering space for friends and family. You may use your patio for barbecues, parties, dinners or just relaxing. Positioning a patio near the stream can create a great atmosphere and setting, but it also puts your patio in a risky spot where it may be damaged by floods.
If you are designing a new patio near the stream, you must be careful to not cause a rise in the floodplain. It is also important the patio is designed to stand up to flood flows it could see. In many cases, a stone patio embedded in the ground will hold up better than a wood patio or deck. Engineers and landscape architects can assist you with properly designing your patio or gathering space.
Play areas and sod:
Similar to patios, you will want to be careful to not place play structures in the floodplain where they can be washed away and become flood debris. Play areas are better located outside of the floodplain when possible.
While mowed grass lawns can be great places to play, it’s not ideal to have sod go right up to the edge of the streambank. Mowed grass lawns do not provide enough wildlife habitat for riparian corridors, nor do they provide the same streambank stabilization that willows, cottonwoods and other riparian vegetation can provide. In addition, mowed grass lawns are typically fertilized multiple times a year. If the lawn goes to the streambank, some of this fertilizer is going to wind up in the stream. This can cause negative effects on aquatic habitat and vegetation.
Accessing the stream may be an important factor for you. When considering stream access points, make safety your first concern. Streams can be very dangerous, especially for young children and small animals. If you are incorporating stream access, consider what areas the access is connecting to and who will be likely to wind up using it. Choosing areas with lower velocity flows can help you to create a safe access point as well.
You can also consider limiting the points of access rather than trying to create access along an entire stretch of streambank. This will help to maintain and improve riparian habitat. Stream access can include formal access such as patios and steps, or it can be informal stone steps/beaches and more natural access points.
Preserving a wide riparian buffer between the stream and manicured play areas is important for stream corridor health and flood risks.
For whatever people spaces you desire, consider creating a riparian buffer to separate the stream from the more manicured people spaces. Riparian corridors include a wide variety of plants, animals and natural materials. By giving these inter-connected pieces some space to function, you are limiting the potential conflicts you will have with them. There are many different opinions on how much space is enough for a riparian buffer, but if you can leave at least 25’ on either side of the stream, this will go a long way to creating/preserving a healthy stream corridor. This is discussed in more detail in the Riparian Plantings strategy sheet.