Clemson could get grant to help fix Hitchcock Woods erosion

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Apr. 5, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- You could call Hitchcock Woods the second home of Linda Knox McLean.

"Most days I'm here one way or another, usually on a horse and most often with my dogs," says the Senior Master of the Aiken Hounds, who's also on the Hitchcock Woods Foundation Board of Trustees.

On Friday morning, she participated in the 97th annual Aiken Horse Show, where riders show off their equestrian talent in a superb setting.

"To me it's magical," she says. "It's one of the most special places in Aiken, if not the most special place in Aiken."

But there's an age-old problem in the woods. Stormwater run-off from the nearby city has caused massive amounts of erosion.

"Aiken has seen a huge amount of growth, and therefore, with more sidewalks, more parking lots, more tarmac throughout the city," says McLean. "Where's that water going to go?"

"Topographically, the Hitchcock Woods is some of the lowest lying area within the Aiken community," adds Doug Rabold, the Executive Director of the Hitchcock Woods Foundation.

That means that stormwater coming from nearby drainage pipes from Downtown Aiken and beyond has devastated this urban forest. Rabold points out a 50 foot canyon (there's also a 70 foot canyon) that's a direct result of erosion.

"What's happened now is that this natural geological feature has been destroyed," he says.

The City of Aiken has been working on a fix for years. So far, after a study by Clemson University in 2008, the city installed rain gardens on certain parkways to soak up precipitation. The city has poured some porous pavement too. The study revealed a complete overhaul would cost $16 million. Thus, city council decided to pursue those types of green infrastructure.

But Doug Rabold with Hitchcock Woods says that's just a first step. On Monday, the City will discuss paying for another study that'll determine where the water's coming from. Clemson would receive $367,437 in Capital Project Sales Tax (Round 2) to complete the study. In it, they'll use beacons equipped with GIS to scientifically map out where the main sources of water flow are entering Hitchcock Woods.

Rabold says then the city will know what else to build and where to build it.

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