Volunteers for green cities

Already, people in Madison are helping create a green city, by volunteering for...
  • community gardens growing local food
  • community orchards
  • rain gardens
  • friends groups for local waterways
  • friends groups and helpers for parks
These are all examples of green infrastructure--the general topic of this blog.

Citizen inspectors

Madison also needs "citizen inspectors," to help monitor construction sites for proper erosion control practices.

Studies show that 19% of the phosphorus in our lakes--an important nutrient that causes the growth of toxic algae--comes from construction site erosion.

My other blog, Contractor Report, has demonstrated that citizens can make a big difference if they just take photos of construction sites near their homes.

Today, I received a phone call from a retired man--since he lives on one of the lakes, he's concerned about their health. In areas where he used to water ski, sediment has accumulated, so that now it's too shallow for the sport.

He has been monitoring constructions sites for years, sometimes taking photos.  He told me stories about reporting numerous violations to the city--but nothing ever happened.   We talked, and I volunteered to help him purchase and learn to use a digital camera.

If the City won't take action...   those embarrassing photos remain there on the internet--they get the attention of contractors.  These photos also prove how permissive the City has become.  Photos are essential to giving your observations and complaints some teeth.

Technical support from this blog

If you are interested in helping monitor construction sites, I'll provide technical support (608-233-9589):
  • Advice in purchasing a digital camera (very inexpensive models work fine)
  • Help in learning how to use it
  • Help in learning how to upload your photos to the internet
Here's a sample of photos one volunteer took last summer in Maple Bluff.

Involving children

... is essential to creating a movement with sticking power.  Most adults today are unaware of what happens to the rain after it hits the pavement--that's why it's hard to make progress towards green infrastructure.  Let's involve children, so they take an interest when they grow up. 
Besides, children love the rain... and puddles.

My dream is to create teams of Runoff Rangers--a retired person in the neighborhood, teamed up with a child.  Or a parent with their child.  When it rains (or afterward), the Rangers go out, to see where the water has gone, and what it has done.  They talk about it, and see how things can be improved in their neighborhood.  Would a tiny rain garden on the terrace keep rain from puddling in the sidewalk?  Projects, or discussions with neighbors might follow.

For the slightly more ambitious teams, nearby construction sites would be a bonanza.  This could provide kids with their first insight into civic responsibility. 

Most private construction sites can be "inspected" simply by walking around the perimeter.  All you do is look for muddy water (or sediment) coming out.  Street construction sites always offer open access for vehicles of people who live in the area.  So there's no danger, no trespassing.

Children need to roam
When I was a kid, we roamed throughout the neighborhood.  But in my neighborhood now, children play only at home.  Perhaps that's because surveys show concerns about "kidnapping" are one of the top five fears of parents--even though the chances are remote. 
Runoff Rangers could be a way to roam and explore safely, teaming knowledgeable grownups with kids yearning to explore... an antidote to TV, the X-box, or obesity.

I live in the Westmorland Neighborhood, and I'm ready to start the first team.  Call 233-9589.  References provided!

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