City looking to bring in expert to help Hitchcock Woods erosion

City looking to bring in expert to help Hitchcock Woods erosion

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Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016 News 12 NBC 26 at 6 O’Clock

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) — A chance for kids to learn outside the classroom at Hitchcock Woods. But on the other side a different kind of history lesson, for city leaders.

“I think it’s a new day, we’re trying to solve problems and this is one that’s been hanging over our head long enough, we need to take care of it and Hitchcock Woods is a huge asset,” Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon said.

In May we showed you this 70-foot canyon created by years of erosion stormwater run-off from downtown Aiken. Now, the city will learn a new lesson, after putting together a task force to fix the problem before it gets worse.

“We’re looking at prioritizing how we tackle this. Sand River is the biggest canyon, but what we’d like to try and do is to prevent the others from getting that way,” Hitchcock Woods Executive Director Christine Rolka said.

In the past the city tried building swells downtown to keep water from reaching the woods. But it was not the fix they needed.

“The idea was good, but it was a pilot project and to a certain degree it did work,” Woods Superintendent Bennett Tucker said.

The city hoping this new task force can find a permanent fix. To do that they want to hire an expert to make sense of numerous studies done on the problem.

“We have a lot of studies, we have a lot of data already and that putting our minds together and bring this consultant in place, we can utilize that to come up with a solution,” Rolka said.

Now the group is going through possible long term solutions, but as these piles of sand where water should be show, it will be a tall task.

“As far as we’re concerned we can’t move fast enough, we come out here, we see this everyday and we want it stopped now,” Rolka said.

The city already has nearly $5 million set aside for this problem specifically and are looking at the state level to see if there are any grants available.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 News 12 NBC 26 at 11 O’Clock

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) — Hitchcock Woods is considered the crown jewel of Aiken, but after years and thousands of gallons of stormwater coming from the downtown of Aiken, it’s created one big problem.

“You can actually see the impact that stormwater has had in eroding this area,” Christine Rolka, Executive Director for the Hitchcock Woods Foundation, said.

A problem hidden in Hitchcock Woods that no one thinks about when it rains in downtown Aiken, except if your Rolka.

“When you see what happens at every rain, you can’t help but think what’s happening to the woods,” Rolka said.

Research by Clemson University shows that Hitchcock Woods is a bowl and when it pours in Aiken, it erodes areas like Sand River.

“Aiken citizens in the early days could just hop over and I don’t think anyone would want to try hoping over this right now, our estimation is it’s about 70 feet in depth,” Rolka said.

City leaders like councilman Dick Dewar have taken notice as well.

“On April 22nd to 23rd (2015) resulted in 35 million gallons of water, stormwater, flowing into Hitchcock Woods,” Dewar said.

The problem dates back to when the downtown started to grow. Now with more people, the city wants to act after years of research.

“If we can get this water to flow into a retention pond and then control the release out of the retention pond that will go a long way to reducing the damage that stormwater is causing,” Dewar said.

As more trees fall into the canyon though, a solution becomes more urgent.

“We don’t want to see that, we don’t want to see that,” Rolka said.

City leaders and members of the board for the Hitchcock Woods Foundation will now have to meet to discuss possible solutions to the problem. Rolka says the new emphasis on infrastructure in this year’s city budget could go a long way towards helping.

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Source: News