The "Roots Against Erosion" project at Hamilton's Skalkaho Bend Park literally broke ground this month and is well into Phase Two - "Excavation and Planting." The project, directed by the Bitter Root Water Forum and the City of Hamilton, will plant a row of trees and shrubs parallel with the Bitterroot River to shore up the riverbanks (map below).

Data from the last quarter-century show the river slowly moving toward the east at the bend. Over the last two years, Hamilton's Geum Environmental Consulting came up with a plan, using an analysis by Applied Geomorphology out of Bozeman.

This week, long depressions are being dug in the south half of the new city park and dirt has been hauled in for planting of mostly willows, with cottonwood and aspen trees at the north end, along with serviceberry bushes. Katie Vennie of the Bitter Root Water Forum said those species are commonly found along the river's bottomlands and the mix of species will grow in both wet and dry areas of the park. To protect the early growth from wildlife, a fence will surround the project area for about 5 years. Re-seeding will be with native grasses.

The swales are about 1,500 feet long and about two feet deep. Though it looks massive right now, the project only covers about 2 percent of the park. The park remains open, but visitors are asked to stay clear of the construction area. The plan is also less expensive than a rip-rap rock plan, such as was done years ago at Hamilton River Park near Haynes Field.

A project image showing the long narrow swales at Skalkaho Bend Park.

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