The Piney Branch stream is probably the most compromised of all the major tributaries to Rock Creek in the Washington, DC section of the waterway. The Piney Branch watershed covers approximately 2,500 acres, 95 percent of which is impervious surface. The presence of a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system magnifies the pollution of the tributary. The 67-acre Piney Branch section of Rock Creek is largely wooded, but the tree canopy is aging and regeneration of the forests has been limited by deer browse and invasive plants.
Chestnut and white oak, beech, and tulip poplar are among the dominant tree species of the stream valley, and persimmon, sassafras and elderberry can be found under the forest canopy.
Piney Branch and SOLVE
Rock Creek Conservancy has a formal agreement with Rock Creek Park designating Piney Branch as a SOLVE site. Launched in 2015 as part of Rock Creek Park's 125th birthday, SOLVE is a program that enables interested individuals and groups to adopt, care for, and look after a part of the Park. In Piney Branch, volunteer tasks include trash pickup and invasive exotic plant removal.
Rock Creek Songbirds
Rock Creek Conservancy is proud to be a partner of the Rock Creek Songbirds habitat restoration project. Steve Dryden, a founding RCC board member, created the Songbirds initiative to improve the Piney Branch section of the Park for nature and people. Since 2013, the initiative has planted or protected close to 500 native trees, assisted by RCC volunteers who have cleared invasive plants and cleaned up trash. Tree plantings in this area are intended to thicken the tree canopy and understory to make the habitat more attractive to birds.
The mission of Rock Creek Songbirds is to restore habitat for migratory birds in the Park and engage the nearby Latino community. Using the migratory story, presentations are made in local schools to students whose families often are from the many Latin countries where the birds spend the winter months. Students have helped to plant trees and protect native species near their school grounds. Art projects include the creation of "Welcome Back Songbirds" banners that are hung in the school's foyer when birds return in the spring. So far, more than 350 students and youth have participated in programs about the migratory phenomenon.
RCC and the Songbirds project are also working to make improvements at the picnic pavilion on Piney Branch Parkway, the only such facility on the eastern side of the Park. Heavily used by the public, especially Latino residents, the pavilion lacks a fireplace and other amenities.