Roeland Park looks to address erosion along Cooper Creek in ongoing restoration effort

Cooper Creek Park

Roeland Park is starting community conversations about how to revive Cooper Creek's stream, which is experiencing erosion. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

Roeland Park city staff are asking for residents’ input as the city begins exploring different ways to address erosion along Cooper Creek just off Johnson Drive.

Why it matters: Cooper Creek, which runs about 900 feet between Roeland and Ash drives just north of Johnson Drive, was a once-thriving woodland and streamway, but invasive plant species and erosion are causing issues for the local environment and homeowners in the area.

Driving the news: Residents and city staff came together for a special neighborhood meeting Wednesday evening to discuss these ongoing concerns.

  • This new meeting comes nearly a year after residents led an effort to eradicate invasive species along the stream and begin to restore the Cooper Creek area, which residents and city officials consider to be one of the gateways to Roeland Park.

Stream concerns: Erosion is the main concern impacting Cooper Creek, City Engineer Dan Miller old residents at Wednesday’s neighborhood meeting.

  • While there are different ways to address the erosion, each with various potential costs, there are also several bureaucratic hoops to jump through, he said.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state, the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency all have jurisdiction over bodies of water — including, potentially, Cooper Creek.
  • Not only will engineers need to develop plans to address ongoing erosion, they will need to submit various permits to the different agencies before anything to address the problem can happen.

Key quote: “Our house and the one on the end are really the only ones where we’re losing our fence,” one resident said told city staffers at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night. “The other houses are not as affected, their fence line is maybe a good 100 to 500 feet away from where Cooper Creek is eroding at the moment — that could all change in the future.”

Background: More than 10 years ago, the city and county stormwater developed a plan to improve Cooper Creek, Miller said.

  • That project, which came with a price tag of $800,000, never came to fruition, but it aimed at maintaining Cooper Creek’s same floodplain area and mitigating erosion along the creek.
  • The plan at the time faced some resident opposition and was ultimately shelved, he said.

Ongoing efforts: A similar partnership led to the formation of the Cooper Creek Park Restoration Project, which spearheaded last year’s effort at eradicating invasive species along the creek.

  • That project ultimately included the removal of several invasive plant species at Cooper Creek — including ivy-like wintercreeper, bush honeysuckle and tree of heaven.
  • Habitat Architects, a habitat restoration company based in Belton, Mo., replanted about 130 trees and shrubs in the woodland to revive it following the removal of the invasive species.
  • Miller said those efforts to remove invasive species and revegetate the woodland with native species will also help stabilize the stream bank.

What can be done? Miller said there is a low-impact plan option, which he recommends moving forward with, that involves continuing the efforts of the Cooper Creek Park Restoration Project.

  • This includes planting native species along the bank to help stabilize it.
  • Not only is this the most cost-effective solution at less than $100,000, he said, it also wouldn’t require permits.
  • Still, the low-impact solution would require upkeep, manpower and a holistic approach to ensure a solution downstream wouldn’t cause a problem upstream, he said.
  • Nearby residents can potentially help by planting native species in their own yards, further stabilizing the bank.

What they’re saying: “One of the things we discussed [previously] was that some of the areas that need more native plantings are on private property,” Roeland Park City Councilmember Jennifer Hill said at the neighborhood meeting Wednesday. “Maybe bringing in some people to help [homeowners] understand what native plantings should you plant and how and where to be the most impactful. That’s a conversation we just started having about how can we educate people to know what and where to plant.”

What’s next: City Administrator Keith Moody told the Post in a follow-up email on Aug. 18 that city staff and Larkin, the city’s engineer firm, will develop a scope and cost estimate for a project.

  • The project scope and cost will go before the city council for consideration and scheduling, he said.
  • If city council approves it, the city will hold another neighborhood meeting to offer an update and share detailed information about native species to plant to prevent erosion.