Sauk Creek Greenway Restoration 2021

Last Updated: 08/23/2019

Updates

August 23, 2019: Work on Creek Crossing at Tree Lane

During the August 2018 floods, the concrete block that provided a ford for our sanitary sewer maintenance equipment to access the sewer was washed out. Our crews need to complete routine maintenance on the sanitary sewer to prevent sanitary backups from occurring; therefore our operations staff has been working to restore the ford crossing. The City decided that it is better to wait to improve the ford crossing with the greenway project (delayed until 2021), and complete a temporary fix in the interim. The cables between some of the concrete blocks broke while resetting the blocks, so the operations crews laid down breaker rock in the cracks to provide the stability needed for the large vactor truck to access the sanitary sewer.
 

Ford Damaged in August 2018 Flood
Ford crossing damaged by August 20, 2018 storm

April, 2019: Madison Pheasant Branch Watershed Study Kick-off Meeting

Due to the flooding that occurred on the west side of the city in the past few years, City Engineering has begun a series of Watershed Studies, including one encompassing the Sauk Creek Greenway. The Madison Pheasant Branch Watershed Study involves creating a stormwater model of the Madison Pheasant Branch watershed to quantify flooding risk and prioritize flooding solutions. The Study will help guide the design of the Sauk Creek Greenway Restoration project and ensure that the project improves overall flood resilience within the watershed. Due to the change in this process, there will not be another meeting to discuss the sauk creek greenway design until the watershed study develops solutions. We anticipate this will take 12-18 months. The kick-off meeting for the watershed study occurred on Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Edgewood College -- Deming Way Campus, 1255 Deming Way. You can find the presentation on the Madison Pheasant Branch Watershed Study website.

Please visit our Flash Flooding Resilience website or general City of Madison Flooding website for more information on flooding.

If you’ve experienced any flooding, please report it with our new Report Flooding portal. This form allows us to utilize and archive the flood information necessary to plan flood prevention projects. Even if you reported flooding to 2-1-1, FEMA, or City staff via phone or email, we would appreciate it if you reported any/all flooding with our new portal.

Background

The watershed draining through this channel is approximately 1,318 acres. At the time of development of the Sauk Creek area the existing farm ditch was not required to be improved. As development has continued upstream, flows have continued to increase causing active and aggressive erosion in the channel. In the mid-1990’s, City Engineering approached the neighborhood with a project to stabilize the channel and the neighborhood rejected it. The channel has now degraded so badly that the project will need to be more aggressive to fix sections of channel that have 5’-6’ tall eroded banks.

Further, as a result of the continued erosion, there are many trees adjacent to the channel that have fallen across it forcing runoff water to create new channels in the greenway causing further erosion in a self-reinforcing cycle. One result of this is that the downstream Wexford pond is filling with sediment from the channel and now requires dredging. City Engineering has delayed dredging of that pond until the primary source of sediment to the pond is stabilized.

Overview Map of Greenway System and Project Area
Overview Map of Greenway System and Project Area

Project

To allow for more public involvement, Engineering no longer brings a completed project to a neighborhood at the initial neighborhood meeting. Our policy is to schedule a public involvement meeting to discuss the nature of the problem and the type of project needed. At the time of this meeting, a design is not completed. This can result in questions which do not have answers at the time of the first meeting, such as, “how many trees are you going to take.” In this case, Engineering has commissioned a tree survey that includes both condition and species for the entire greenway. Therefore, the City will be able to answer this type of question as the project progresses through the design, permitting, and public engagement process.

In a similar fashion, the channel width will not be known until the hydraulic and hydrologic modeling is completed, which will be in advance of the next neighborhood meeting. Some things are known; in areas where there are 5’-6’ tall vertical banks as a result of erosion, the channel will need to expand to regrade those slopes. We also know the channel geometry will vary throughout the greenway based on existing topography.

Please see the slides from the Public Input Meeting for more detail.

Tree Removal

It has been inaccurately stated that 2,200 trees will be removed. This is not an estimation that the City supports. As a design has not been proposed, there is not an estimated number of tree removals to provide at this time. A consultant completed a tree survey of the entire greenway for the channel project. The results of the survey highlighted habitat opportunities and documented the ecological degradation that has occurred in these woods due to a lack of invasive management. The youngest oaks in the forest are 80-100 years old. On the current trajectory, the mature oaks will slowly die off without being replaced. The City plans to create a sustainable, long-term restoration plan with help from experts and input from the community that will promote new oak growth and maintain this quality resource for future generations.

For more detailed information about the tree survey, and the ability to view quality tree locations and ratings, please view the Sauk Creek Greenway Restoration Tree Survey Story Map. Please note that the tree data is represented as dots on the map, you can zoom in to adjust the map scale by clicking "explore map" in the lower right corner.

Dedication of these Lands

These lands were dedicated to the City with several plats including a portion dedicated in 1976 near Tamarack Trails that was “Dedicated to the Public for Parkway Purposes.” The term “parkway” was used in the 1970’s for greenway dedications. The rest of the greenway was “Dedicated to the Public for Greenway and Park Purposes and Storm Water Detention” in the Sauk Creek Plat in 1985, and in the First Addition to Sauk Creek Plat in 1987.

Per the Definitions in the Official Map Ordinance 16.25 (3): the term “Parkway” for the purpose of this section shall include any right-of-way for vehicular or pedestrian traffic, or both, with full or partial control of access and usually located within a park or a ribbon of parklike development. Said parkway may include land area which is required for storm water drainage purposes where the drainage improvement is to include parklike treatment and where pedestrian or vehicular travel may be permitted. Per Ordinance Chapter 16.25(3) (above) and Chapter 16.23(2), both lands dedicated as Greenways and Parkways “may serve multiple purposes including, in addition to their principal use for storm drainage, vehicular and/or pedestrian traffic, sanitary sewers, water mains, storm sewers, storm water retention basins, park development and other related uses.”

Bike Paths

The following outlines why a bike path is being considered with the greenway restoration project:

  • The 1984 Park and Open Space Plan noted that Walnut Grove Park had a bikeway through it, and that “Park Master Plans should continue to plan for bicycle/pedestrian circulation adjacent to and within the park” but the Sauk Creek greenway was not yet shown on the map as City property.
  • The 1991 and 1997 Park and Open Space Plans list Sauk Creek/Walnut Grove as an area for "potential new bike paths on parkland" and calls to “construct a bike path from Old Sauk Road to Tree Lane.”
  • The 2000 adopted Bicycle Transportation Plan for the Madison Metropolitan Area and Dane County identifies Sauk Creek Greenway/Walnut Grove Park as a 3rd Priority project with a comment that “suitable on-road routes exist”
  • The 2015 adopted Bicycle Transportation Plan for the Madison Metropolitan Area and Dane County includes a bike path in the Sauk Creek greenway system to provide North/South and East/West connections through the greenway.

The City is assessing community need in regards to the bike path. As the channel analysis progresses, the City will look at bike path need from a transportation perspective, as well as how the bike path would fit within the greenway design.

The City Parks Division is proposing an additional off-road trail network for mountain biking, snow shoeing, and skiing. The Parks Division is looking at the City comprehensively to find locations where such trails could be beneficial for the community.

Restoration

Volunteers can make a big difference in the ecological health of the Sauk Creek Greenway. Additionally, preemptively removing invasive species can greatly curb the spread during reconstruction work. A few volunteer efforts that have made a big difference in the health of the greenway include garlic mustard pulling and buckthorn cutting.

Garlic mustard is an aggressive, herbaceous species that can take over entire woodlands and displace native wildflowers. In the spring of 2018, volunteers hand-pulled invasive garlic mustard in targeted locations allowing for a carpet of native wildflowers to emerge. Native species that benefited from garlic mustard removal include wild geranium, Solomon’s seal, Virginia bluebells, wood violets and wild ginger.

Winter brush cutting in 2018 and 2019 targets berry-producing buckthorn. Buckthorn can shade out native tree and woodland wildflower species, compact the soil and exacerbate erosion issues. The berries produced by buckthorn are attractive to wildlife, though they are indigestible to most birds and mammals and are soon dispelled in a new location. Cutting the berry-producing individuals removes potential seeds from the environment and opens up the canopy for diverse native species.

If you are interested in volunteering to help with restoration work in the Sauk Creek Greenway please contact Si Widstrand at si.widstrand@gmail.com

Timeline

A change since the last public involvement meeting is that the greenway project will be a part of a larger Madison Pheasant Branch Watershed Study which will help build Flash Flooding Resilience. By studying the entire watershed, including downstream areas, as opposed to the area that drains into Sauk Creek greenway, we can be better stewards of the watershed and make sure that changes to the channel do not impact downstream, or upstream, neighbors. The kick-off meeting for the watershed study will occur on Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Edgewood College -- Deming Way Campus, 1255 Deming Way, Room 150-153.

Due to the change in this process, there will not be another meeting to discuss the sauk creek greenway design until the watershed study develops solutions. We anticipate this will take 12-18 months.

Public Information Meeting

The first Public Information Meeting was held on Tuesday, March 13th, 2018. The presentation from this meeting can be found here: March 13th Public Input Meeting Presentation

The City has received a variety of public comments and questions before, after and during the Public Input Meeting. A summary of comments received through March 30th can be found here: Public Comments Received Through March 30th, 2018

The kick-off meeting for Madison Pheasant Branch Watershed Study will occur on: Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Edgewood College -- Deming Way Campus, 1255 Deming Way, Room 150-153.

Additional Information

The Ecological Summary, authored by Tree Health Management after completing the tree survey, can be found here: Sauk Creek Ecological Summary

Each tree greater than 3” in diameter at breast height was surveyed and given a condition rating. This occurred from November-December of 2017. The collected Tree Data in Excel spreadsheet format can be found here: Tree Data