Statement from Friends of Hillcrest Upland Greenway

The following "statement" submitted by David Newby is based on widespread discussions with neighbors living near the ravine, and incorporates their views.

The association was organized to retain the wild, tree-filled greenway.

THE PROBLEM: We have been given little alternative but to accept the complete replacement of the main sanitary sewer and the sewer laterals along this rustic valley. (Sewer branches will not be replaced or new ones built – thank you.)

But many issues now remain. Once Engineering’s bulldozers pull out of the valley, we will be left with
  • a raw gash in the valley and in the hillsides
  • a storm water channel of uncertain route, quality and appearance
  • erosion control mechanisms which are not yet acceptably defined
  • bare landscape where trees of significant size once grew
Who will be responsible for restoring the site to its rustic beauty, how will that be done, how will it be funded, and what is the time frame? We seek acceptable city response to the issues raised in this document, and to the proposals which we present here.

 THE PERSPECTIVE: while we currently own the homes here, we actually are temporary residents along the greenway. It is the trees and water and wildlife that are the permanent residents and we want to leave this area wild and tree-filled, with the sound and sight of flowing water, when we leave.

THE OBJECTIVE: restoration of the rustic nature of the valley/greenway, following the damage to the valley from the open-cut replacement of the sanitary sewer and from the construction of a stable storm water channel.

Friends of the Valley Facebook group is at “Friends of Hillcrest Upland Greenway”

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** daylight the storm water at the east end of the valley
and create structures to contain and control the water

The east end of the valley is going to be dug up once again, this time to replace the sewer pipe and laterals. Reconsider the piping of the storm water up there, and this time, do it right.

This is the area of the greenway where there is a large amount of city property, property whose soil characteristics are such that water can seep into that soil instead of racing across bedrock.

Use that property to create retention ponds, dams, and rain gardens to permit the re-absorption of the water into the ground. This will reduce the volume of water coming down the valley, slow its flow, and mitigate the destruction caused to the hillsides by the fast-flowing large volumes of water.

One option concerning the east end of the valley is to use it as a test zone for storm water management/green infrastructure techniques, such as those being used in Philadelphia. (Details about using the east end of the valley as a green infrastructure test site can be found at David Thompson’s website.)

** define the nature and course of the storm water channel

Will it simply be a chute, like a water slide in Wisconsin Dells? Will it have levels for small waterfalls, wide spaces where pools can form, curves reflecting the curving nature of the valley itself?

** vary the width of the storm water channel

The stream bed does not have to be uniformly wide. There is significant change in the volume and velocity of the water once the principal stream is joined by the water flowing down from the streets through the storm water branch drain between 4338 and 4334 Upland Drive.

Reduce the planned storm water channel width from Owen to the entrance of the storm water branch at 4334/4338 Upland, armor with natural boulders the location where the branch water meets the main channel, and begin the currently-planned wide stream bed where the storm water branch enters the main stream.

** natural boulders should be installed at the “corners” of the stream, where the storm water changes course, and along especially degraded hillside areas, to armor these areas that are especially prone to erosion

** select field stones for the riprap

The quality and nature of the riprap needs to be specifically identified, with photos presented of what we can expect. This is not an isolated water channel far from public view, it is our backyards. (The photo shown us at the community meeting of the riprap-filled channel along the southwest bike path was especially alarming.)

** the placement of the riprap needs to be defined, as does the process by which the riprap will be installed. Will the riprap be installed in some fashion or simply be dumped in piles along the water route?

** conform to a City of Madison long-range plan for greener stormwater management if during the planning for and the process of ravine reconstruction, the City enacts such a plan.


Provide additional information on how the current Engineering plans under option #2 will stabilize the hillsides, especially those which are most fragile, and curb the erosion along the valley. The erosion problems differ along the valley’s length – how will one solution solve the variety of erosion problems? Is filling the valley with riprap expected to be the sole erosion control mechanism?

In addition to erosion in city-owned property, there are erosion problems on private property and in the easements along the valley and some of those problems are major. Work with individual property owners to remediate the erosion problems on their property which have been caused by the long-neglected and significant erosion in the public-owned and in the easement properties.


Make special efforts to safeguard major trees at the edge of the construction zone. Crushed and severed roots will kill these trees as certainly as will a chainsaw. Identify these trees, e.g. with a particular color ribbon, and instruct contractors to work carefully in their vicinity.

It appears that there are several other major trees which may be left standing when this is all over, trees which currently are at risk because of exposed roots and neglect. We ask that you attempt to save them, by providing appropriate soil (not just crushed gravel and clay) and nutrients needed to help them survive.


Replace the trees. A number of the trees to be cut down are magnificent, 50 to 70 years old, especially the dense stand at the west end of the valley. Include in the bid a tree replacement contract. It should include a variety of trees of significant size, and they should be placed throughout the valley. We do not want to wake up some day after the bulldozers leave with two burlap-balled trees in our driveways and a note that says “Go to it, folks!” (Mary Norton is developing a list of site-appropriate trees, trees that will do well in the ravine, and will provide it to the city.)


Our valley will need landscaping, remediation and habitat restoration. Include in the bid a landscape plan which restores the area as much as possible to its previous condition, and includes appropriate ground cover to filter storm water as it travels into the storm water channel.


** use a single-lane construction path to do the work

Do not create a separate construction road parallel to the sanitary and storm water work path.

This will minimize construction damage to private property (easements) adjacent to city property

** define the construction path in a highly visible way

Construct a snow fence? Install a rope fence? Install stakes along the valley and we’ll connect them with ribbon or rope?

** use a non-traditional bid procedure for the project, one which specifies the use of the smallest, least intrusive equipment, and imposes significant penalties, penalties sufficient to deter contractor “mistakes” or “collateral damage”

** include in the bid a requirement that the contractor restore the area as much as possible to its previous condition, and that the contractor provide thorough clean-up in the areas in which they worked
ssure careful and attentive city supervision of contractors

** assure careful and attentive city supervision of contractors

Recognize that this is a unique project in a narrow space between long-established homes with back-yards contiguous to city property.

** assure careful and attentive city supervision of contractors

Monitor contract work to assure the work is done only within contract parameters, trees are protected from “accidental” damage, and intrusion on and damage to private property does not happen.


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