Case Study

Sunken Meadow State Park Restoration

Increased development and the historic construction of a dam on Sunken Meadow Creek in the 1950’s led to reduced tidal exchange, increased water levels in the creek, poor water quality, and the proliferation of invasive species. In 2008 a number of partners (NYS OPRHP, NOAA, NYSDEC, LISS, TNC, Save the Sound, USFWS, LI Botanical Society) came together to work to restore the degraded marsh habitat around Sunken Meadow Creek, increase tidal flow, improve aquatic organism passage, limit invasives, and improve water quality. A restoration feasibility study was completed in 2010. In 2012 Superstorm Sandy blew out the dam on Sunken Meadow Creek, naturally kick-starting restoration. Following Superstorm Sandy, the project partners were able to quickly capitalize on available funding and grants, due to their prior planning efforts. A bridge was built across the Creek where the dam blew out, salt marsh habitat was restored at three locations, green infrastructure was installed in one of the parking areas to capture and treat stormwater runoff, fish passage feasibility on the creek was investigated, and education and outreach was conducted to thousands of people. These projects were completed in 2019. Now, with funding through Long Island Sound Futures Fund, Audubon NY is leading a large-scale marsh restoration project at Sunken Meadow Creek to restore important high-marsh habitat for at risk species, like the Saltmarsh Sparrow, and to increase the resilience of the marsh in the face of rising sea levels. Audubon will be working to finalize the designs and secure permits over the next two years, with on-the-ground restoration expected in 2026.

Sunken Meadow Case Study - Marsh Restoration Site - Credit Elizabeth Hornstein
Sunken Meadow Case Study - Constructed Wetlands at Parking Area 2 - Credit Vicky O_Neill
Sunken Meadow Case Study - Bioswales at Parking Area 2 - Credit Vicky O_Neill
Study Type: Project
Impact Information:
Overall the project has been highly successful, reducing flooding, polluted runoff, and invasives, as well as increasing the recreational value and beauty of the Park. There has been positive feedback from the public following the restoration projects. Some challenges remain with dealing with invasive species. It was determined that proceeding with the fish passage plans was not worthwhile, following the feasibility assessment.
Period of Completion: 2019/Ongoing
Total Cost: $2.5M
Funding Sources: Primary Sources: 2014 Hurricane Sandy Department of Interior Grant, FEMA, Long Island Sound Futures Fund. Additional funds/match were contributed by project partners.
Contact Info:

Sean Cruickshank, Jon Vander Werff, Phoebe Clark, Vicky O’Neill

Nature-based Solutions
Water Quality
Recreation & Access
Open Resource

Resilience Steps


EPA Sea Grant New York Sea Grant Connecticut