Restoration on a 1,300-foot stretch of stream to re-direct, re-grade, and re-plant to reduce runoff and improve ecological function at Pearlstone Retreat Center and Outdoor Education Campus. While ecological uplift is the main driver for design, this project presents unique opportunities to create Mikvah pools and stream-side gathering areas in harmony with the natural function of the stream.
This project at Pearlstone is a quintessential example of a true ecotone and directly taps into the core philosophy of our company. An ecotone is an area of transition between two biological communities but this project dives deeper into that concept and celebrates the intersection of the natural environment and human culture. We, at Ecotone, envision a world in which the natural environment and humankind thrive. We embrace the ecological interconnectedness of the land, water, flora and fauna, and people and that’s exactly what this project is about.
The Pearlstone campus features an organic farm, retreat center, events space, and a substantial area dedicated solely to natural habitat. Due to past generations’ land management practices, the stream had become degraded and was in need of restoration to achieve sustained health and abundance for future generations. In response, we incorporated a natural channel design that re-aligns the stream to reduce stream velocities and shear stresses on channel banks by allowing the water to exit the channel efficiently and spread out on the floodplain
One of the key components of the project was to incorporate natural mikvahs—pools of typically spring or naturally sourced water used for immersion prior to marriage, conversion to Judaism, and for many other traditions in various Jewish communities. Two natural mikvahs were formed by using toe wood structures at bends in the stream to create the necessary deep pool. Additionally, large rock structures were strategically placed in areas surrounding the mikvahs for use as sitting areas during site learning sessions and leisure.
- Natured-based restoration
- Naturally formed Mikvah pools
- Substantial nutrient and sediment reductions
- Natural Channel Design
- Ecological interconnectedness of the land and humans
- Wildlife habitats
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Reflecting on the progress of the project, Greg Strella, the Center’s Director of Stewardship says that Pearlstone has gotten more out of it than they’d expected. Not only are the physical changes to the land being realized, but a relationship of vision from Pearlstone and expertise from Ecotone has highlighted the alignment of values between the two. “Our experience in working with Ecotone staff has been that they’re talented, consistent, friendly, and hard-working. It’s a special mix,” says Strella. He is also looking forward to moving beyond the first phase of the center’s master plan when they will be inviting more people from the surrounding Jewish community to learn about the project and their sustainability work to broaden the reach of their regenerative work.
–Greg Strella, the Center’s Director of Stewardship at Pearlstone