Sustainability at the UW in Madison

When I attended the recent New Urbanism conference at Monona Terrace on June 4, the UW had a display there, boasting about its sustainability

That was a new one for me... so I decided to look into it.

Glacier under Mt. Walker survives into June

Mt. Walker hides a remnant of ice, under a mantle of garbage.

Question: Where can you still find winter ice in Madison?
Answer: Under scenic Mt. Walker, on the west end of Campus.


Work on Secret Pond reconstrution begins

Eroded channel of Manitou Creek, a bit upstream of Secret Pond. More photos

Update 6/21:  According to Steve Glass, the project has begun with a misstep.  The project's Chapter 30 permit requires that the heavy equipment coming to the project be clean of soil, to avoid introducing invasive species.  The first bulldozer to arrive was dirty.

Below is a letter sent to residents by Gary A. Brown, Director, Campus Planning and Landscape Architecture:

2011 summer solstice bonfire--a perfect evening

See all the photos here.

It was a perfect balmy summer evening--dew on the air, fireflies coming out. As I approached the park, wood smoke wafted my way.

From the edge of the park on Glenway St., a freshly mulched path plunged into the darkness. There were a few candles along the path, and in the distance, a bonfire flickered. Chords of a guitar hung faintly in the air.

Although it was 10:00 pm, only 10 people remained at the bonfire. A tornado warning had put a dent in attendance.

In Scandinavia, the idea is to have a bonfire to celebrate the midnight sun--then sing, drink, and talk into the small hours of morning. I guess there weren't enough Scandinavians present (despite the memory of Jens Jensen).
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This year's event was organized by Peter Nause and other members of the DMNA Parks Committee.


Comments on City plans to control Japanese knotweed

The following comments were sent by Steve Glass, Restoration Ecologist at the UW Arboretum.  He will soon post additional comments on his blog, WingraSprings.


Not sustainable--the construction industry in Madison

Recently, the American Lung Association named Madison as one of the most polluted cities in the nation from particle pollution--dust and smoke.

There's construction all over downtown Madison.  Dust is being tracked onto streets every day, and is being blown out of construction sites on windy days.

Covering sources of dust

Findorff site before covering, & after. Click to enlarge.


City requests proposals for control of invasive plants

On June 3, the City Engineering Division requested proposals from landscapers for control of invasive plants.  An informational meeting will be held at the work locations on June 17, to answer contractor's questions, and bids are due on June 28. The project is being managed by Glenn Clark.  Details.


It's getting harder to find sites for new city wells

During a recent exploration of unseen Madison spots, I had a chance to find out how hard it is to protect groundwater and find new well sites.

As Madison grows, we need more wells. As more areas become contaminated, wells have to be abandoned, and there are fewer places where you can put a new well.

Exploring an old landfill--now home to Terra

Early last spring, when I found myself on the east side of town, I decided to explore the woods by the state offices at the end of Agriculture Rd.

There was a nice path, but I quickly came to a huge dump.  Part of it was capped (imperfectly), and part was still receiving construction debris and snow removed from parking lots.

Salvaged concrete blocks were piled into mountains. 


Groundwater at Odana exceeds standards for salt

The Cogeneration plant on the west side of the UW campus is allowed to withdraw large amounts of water from Lake Mendota, based on a complicated swap agreement with DNR.

That agreement called for an infiltration field at the Odana Hills Golf Course, where up to 60 million gallons a year of stormwater are pumped into the soil.  Background.

One of the problems with this agreement is that the water being pumped into the soil is rather salty, due to overuse of road salt in the area. Several test wells in the area show levels of salt over the Enforcement Standard.  In other words, the groundwater is starting to become polluted with salt.

A trek to Secret Pond

The morning after a storm, three adventurers head into the wetlands of Lake Wingra, looking for the legendary "Secret Pond."

After more than two hours of soggy hiking, Gordon Heingartner said:
"I think my feet are beginning to rot!"

To be continued...
In the meantime, you can see more photos here.


Contractors--one cause of bad air in Dane County

Dust lofting from Findorff* site in downtown Madison.
Note concrete waste, right center.

The American Lung Association gave the Madison area** a failing grade for particle pollution in the air.  That's right, an "F."

Originally reported on WISC-TV, I decided to delve a little deeper.  It was hard to believe that little old Madison, the city of blue lakes, could be so polluted.

But it's true.  Here's what I found.


Study finds poor air quality in Madison

American Lung Association said the Madison area is one of the worst places* in the country for particle pollution in the air, according to a new study.

Dust from Findorff construction site, near Kohl Center, 6/3/11.

The Odana infiltration project

A complicated way of doing a simple thing

 A “Rube Goldberg” machine is an impossibly complicated device that does a simple task. Rube himself was an engineer, who celebrated the spirit of invention with his cartoons. There was always some implausible step that guaranteed failure in the real world.

Cartoon by Rube Goldberg. He was an engineer.

 In Madison, we are honored to have one of the largest Rube Goldberg machines in the state, hidden away in an out-of-the way corner of Odana Golf Course. But this complex machine sends its strings, pipes, wells, and band aids all over the City and beyond.

While this machine is indeed complex--it sometimes works.  And it was conceived with the best intentions--to safeguard the environment and the public water supply.


Japanese knotweed invades the bike path

Madison has a BIG problem with Japanese knotweed along the Southwest Bike Path.  It's a big weed--standing up to 9 feet tall--and a big patch, extending over a mile along the bikeway.  It's an invader from eastern Asia, and very aggressive.  It forms dense stands that crowd out most other vegetation.

Left: Large knotweed plants. Center: re sprouting quickly after being mowed.
A sinister plant...

A recent article in Science describes the plant as "sinister"and "a Goliath"--strong words for the usually staid magazine.  "What makes this plant so menacing is its ability to grow through solid concrete foundations, forcing contractors to abandon infested building sites.  In England alone, about a half-million homes are uninsurable, and in the UK, damages and removal cost $288 million a year."


Find out about "Take a Stake in the Lakes"

"Join your friends and neighbors in helping Dane County lakes, rivers, and streams now and for future generations by being a part of the Take a Stake in the Lakes Days 2011.  Clean up a shoreline, plant a rain garden, paddle to work, congratulate a Waters Champion.

With just a click here, you can learn more about important and exciting activities awaiting you and your family."

Free paddling event for kids on Lake Wingra

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Voyageur canoe (left) on Monona Bay, 2010.

Parents--bring your kids for a paddle on Lake Wingra.  We'll paddle twin 11-passenger Voyageur canoes that are very stable for young participants.

Children must be accompanied by a parent and be at least 5 years old. The free event will be lead by Sue Josheff from DNR. Floatation vests and paddles will be provided.

There are two departure times--you may register for the first or second departure by sending the parent and child paddlers' names to:
susan.josheff@wisconsin.gov.  Please indicate child's age. You will receive an email confirmation, or notification if the event is canceled due to weather.

Schedule of events

9:00 am - First Voyage paddlers meet
9:15 - 10:15 am (or until kids lose interest) - First voyage
10:15 am Second voyage paddlers meet
10:30 - 11:30 am (or until kids lose interest) - Second voyage

Meet at the Wingra Park Boat Landing, at the end of Knickerbocker St.  Map.

Thanks to Sue Josheff