Unearthing a Piece of History—Daylighting Staunton’s Peyton Creek


Construction of Peyton Creek culvert from 1927 | © City of Staunton

Construction of Peyton Creek culvert from 1927 | © City of Staunton

In Amy’s recent post, she does a great job of describing what stream daylighting is and how benefits to river health translate to community benefits. Staunton, Virginia is an example of one such community that recognizes the severe impact stormwater runoff is having on the water quality of Peyton Creek and has elected to do something about it.

Peyton Creek serves as part of a corridor connecting Gypsy Hill Park, one of Staunton’s large urban parks, with the Staunton Public Library. Together, the water, trees, and walkways form a civic promenade between two important public destinations, ultimately connecting to Staunton’s downtown district. However, Peyton Creek suffers from storm-related flooding, which is exacerbated by the large amount of impervious paved surfaces within the watershed. This contributes to increased runoff and downstream pollution.

By 2009, the city committed to increasing their green infrastructure portfolio as a way to address these problems and partnered with the University of Virginia School of Architecture to develop a report highlighting key strategies the city could undertake. Included in this report is the daylighting of 900-linear feet of Peyton Creek and restoration of approximately 3,500-linear feet of riparian buffer, both of which are the backbone of current improvement efforts.

Gypsy Hill Place

Gypsy Hill Place

The primary focus of the daylighting effort is planned at the site of the former Robert E. Lee High School. When the high school was built in 1926, the decision was made to bury Peyton Creek and create an athletic field for the school. Now, 86 years later, the building has been converted into a mixed-use development and communities have a much better understanding of the value of free-flowing rivers. Once historic Peyton Creek is unearthed, we anticipate water quality will improve for benthic macroinvertebrate communities (think aquatic bugs – which are good for fish as food) and localized flooding will be reduced.

This work, which is funded in part by an American Rivers-EPA Potomac Highlands Implementation Grant builds on the efforts of a private property owner and city staff. In 2010, Dr. David Morgan demolished two blighted buildings, removing all concrete from 280/274 North Central Avenue and daylighting 200 feet of Peyton Creek.

To learn more about stream daylighting and how your community can get involved, read and share our new report, Daylighting Streams: Breathing Life into Urban Streams and Communities.