1. A final meeting to review detailed plans, including landscaping, before plans are finalized. Our support is contingent on what we hear at this meeting.
Residents at the Nov. 30 meeting asked so many questions that the planned presentation could barely proceed. Clearly, there were many questions left unresolved by the meeting. Obviously, residents care about the details very much. The city cannot expect residents to support one of the current options, unless more details are given. There is much at stake in reaching a consensus--and consensus depends on the details.
Better landscaping than this is needed for our greenway project
2. Better landscaping, including planting saplings to replace lost trees.
When we say "better," we are referring to the lack of landscaping details in the current options, plus the dismal landscaping of previous projects, such as the ditch just north of the SW Bikeway (photo above), or the burial of Westmorland Stream.
A look at the streambank stabilization of Pheasant Branch in Middleton shows the variety of creative techniques available when a city works with an experienced private contractor. Pheasant Branch reinforces my impression that Madison's Engineering Dept. lacks experience with the kind of "fine tuning" of landcaping needed for our greenway project.
Last summer, street reconstruction on Spaight Street damaged trees so badly that some had to be cut down. Some people felt it was the result of overly large equipment and inadequate contracting procedures. To see photos of the damage, click here.
Option #2 indicates that 66 trees will have to be cut. But at the meeting, Lisa Coleman acknowledged that additional trees might succumb. With the map for #2 in hand, I went into the ravine. While I didn't finish the job, I did identify at least one large tree that was within a few feet of the construction zone (see photo above). We thought it probable this tree would die from root damage unless extra efforts were taken.
Rock dams would add variety for wildlife & restore groundwater
4. A series of rock dams and pools along the ravine to slow floodwaters & serve as rain gardens. See photo above.
Variety is important to both wildlife and for aesthetics. Riprap is destructive to wildlife because it is barren, uniform, and forces water underground.
Option #2 could be greatly improved with the addition of a series of attractive rock dams that would create pools during storms, as well as diminish the erosive force of floods. After the storm is over, these pools could serve as a series of rain gardens.
The purpose of the pools is not to store waters from a large flood, because they wouldn't have sufficient volume. Rather, they would provide water for wildlife, aesthetics for humans, and a way for rainwater to get back into the soil. During a normal, moderate rain, it's possible that the series of pools would capture most of the runoff, for recharge of the groundwater.
One can see such pools on the east side of the Pheasant Branch Conservancy, just west of Valley Creek Circle. (These dams are different from the "vanes" in Proposal #3.) More photos
5. Better cleanup.
I have heard of cleanup problems at other construction sites. My only direct experience is with the riprap just north of the SW Bikeway. Although this project was supposed to solve erosion problems, erosion was still occurring at the edge of the woods and golf course upstream. In other words, the job wasn't finished.
6. Field stones instead of limestone for the riprap (we need an ironclad commitment).
The difference between sharp limestone rubble, and natural field stones (photo on right), is vast. It would be tragic if, we learned after the project was completed, that "Sorry, field stones weren't available." We need a firm commitment!
7. A contract with penalties for contractor if they cause damage outside the construction zone.
The problem with tree damage during reconstruction on Spaight Street has been blamed on the fact that Madison is unable to penalize contractors who damage trees. Our project should wait until Madison has the procedures in place to penalize contractors. If not, we may need to mount a "watch for the trees."
8. Funds for rain barrels and soaker hoses, facilitating plant growth to make the ravine more resistant to erosion.
Neighbors who maintain gardens of native woodland plants know that dry summers can decimate their garden--and that "soaker hoses" are the answer. If residents along the greenway have rain barrels linked to soaker hoses down in the greenway, then the greenway will be more lush and attractive. Better plant growth will help prevent erosion. New designs of rain barrels will allow them to be placed well away from your house, out by the edge of the greenway.
Dead leaves in ravine9. A strainer at the lower end to catch dead leaves, so the city can periodically remove them.
Leaves from the greenway should be removed periodically to prevent them (or their nutrients) from getting into the lake. A filter at the lower end would allow the city to periodically remove them. Resident volunteers can remove them from the rain gardens along the greenway.
10. Remediation--restore some of the habitat lost to riprap
A series of dams and pools would be one way to increase habitat diversity. Some large (hopefully hollow) logs should be left from the tree removal process. With rain barrels, we may be able to create some wet "seeps."
11. A watershed approach--add funds to the greenway budget that could be used to promote rain gardens upstream.
It makes little sense to try to prevent erosion from floodwaters within the ravine, while doing nothing in the watershed above the ravine to abate runoff. The fact that Options #1-3 contain no watershed improvements is an example of Madison's outmoded thinking for handling storm water. Obviously, watershed improvements will proceed more slowly--but at least funds should be included in this project, to get the ball rolling on watershed improvements, such as rain gardens and small impoundments for floodwaters.