Tanyard Branch, also called Tanyard Creek, is a small stream that flows through densely developed neighborhoods and the heart of UGA’s campus. In many locations, the stream is piped beneath buildings and expanses of asphalt, even flowing under Sanford Stadium for a stretch. Elsewhere, it is hidden from view by an massive wall of invasive plants. Consequently, few people have considered the creek to be an asset. Seeking to transform this situation, the UGA Chew Crew has built an enclosure near the Hull Street Parking Deck where we set the goats free to defoliate the overabundant invasive species populations there. We also engage the Athens community in the creek’s restoration through regular volunteer events held at the site.
In the early twentieth century, Athens economy was centered around tanning animal hides for leather. To produce a pliable, working material, leather was soaked in a water and red oak bark mixture to leach out tannins found in the tree bark which softens the material. These vats were constructed alongside Tanyard Creek and would stew for a period as little as 6 months to up to 24 months. Once the tanning process was complete, these vats were drained into Tanyard Branch, polluting the water and soil. As development of UGA’s campus and Athens ramped up, Tanyard and many other creeks were diverted and hidden underground to make way for the new infrastructure. Over the years, Tanyard Branch has been used as a place to dump trash, demolition material, and landscape waste. The creek’s location in the heart of campus makes it a receptacle for pollutants such as litter and automotive fluids to drain in during rain events.
Some of the common invasive plant species we are battling at Tanyard Creek include Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), kudzu, wintercreeper, English ivy (Hedera helix), hedge parsley (Torilis arvensis), Chinese yam (Dioscorea polystachya), perilla (Perilla frutescens), and Asiatic hawksbeard (Youngia japonica).