Friends of Sauk Creek

This is a webpage hosted by Ellen Foley Ink, a supporter of environmental efforts and a neighbor of the Sauk Creek Greenway. Contact GwenLong6@gmail.com for more information about the Friends of Sauk Creek. 

Dec. 6, 2023

Buttigieg supports City Trees



U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg shared a vivid tribute to city trees in his Twitter feed that we hope the city commissions and other officials read today. 

The Cultural Tutor @culturaltutor
12 Reasons Why Cities Need More Trees:
1. Temperature Control
One large tree is equivalent to 10 air conditioning units, and the shade they provide can reduce street temperature by more than 30%.
2. Noise Reduction
Trees can reduce loudness by up to 50%. In urban areas filled with the sound of cars, construction, sirens, aeroplanes, and music, trees are essentially the best way to block noise and keep cities — along with the homes and workplaces in them — quieter.
3. Air Purity
Trees remove an astonishing amount of harmful pollutants and toxins from the air. In urban areas air quality is often disastrously bad — with severe consequences for our health. Trees make the air we breathe much cleaner.
4. Oxygen
And, while absorbing all those pollutants, trees also put more oxygen back into the urban environment. Oxygen levels are significantly lower in cities compared to the countryside; trees help to solve that problem.
5. Water Management
Trees do more than just shelter us and our buildings from rain — which is, in fact, extremely important. They also absorb huge quantities of water, reduce run-off, neutralise the severity of flooding, and make flooding more unlikely altogether. Not to forget that their roots absorb pollutants and prevent them from feeding back into a city’s water supply.
6. Psychological Health
Studies have proven what we instinctively know to be true: that human beings are significantly happier when surrounded by nature rather than sterile urban environments. Our emotions, behaviour, and thoughts are shaped by the places we spend time — and trees have a profoundly positive effect on our psychology. The consequential benefits of being happier and more peaceful — as individuals and as a society — are immense.
7. Physical Health
Beyond all the other ways in which trees improve air quality and the urban environment, much to the benefit of our health, they also encourage people to go outside. Cycling, running, and walking are all more common in urban areas with plenty of trees. A knock-on effect of people spending more time outdoors is also social integration and stronger communities.
8. Privacy
A simple point, but not inconsequential, is that trees provide privacy.
9. Economics
The total economic benefit of urban trees is hard to calculate. There are costs, of course, including the repair of infrastructure damaged by roots and maintaining the trees themselves. But the total economic benefit — a consequence of everything else in this list and more — far outweighs the expenditure. Trees make cities wealthier.
10. Wildlife
Trees are miniature cities all of their own, serving as a habitat for hundreds of different species, including birds and mammals and insects.
11. Light Pollution
Trees don’t only block the light shining down, therefore keeping us and our cities cooler — they also disrupt light shining up, from street lighting, cars, houses, and billboards. Skies are clearer in cities with more trees.
12. Aesthetics
And, finally, trees are beautiful. They break up the potential monotony of urban environments — the sharp geometry, the greyscale roads and buildings, the endless rows of cars — with their trunks, boughs, canopies, and flowers.
Just think: the gold and red of falling leaves in autumn, the white and pink blossom of spring, the vast green canopies of summer, and the branches lined with hoar-frost in winter. Every single tree is a myriad of intricacy and texture, of colour and scent, of dappled light on the pavement, mottled bark, knotted roots, of clustered leaves and delicate petals and stern boughs.
Few streets would not be improved by the kaleidoscopic aesthetic delights of a tree, not to mention the many different species of tree, all over the world, whether willow, oak, lime, cherry, aspen, maple, birch, horse chestnut, dogwood, hornbeam, ash, sycamore… the list goes on.
There are some drawbacks to urban trees, most of them context-specific, and they are not — of course — universally appropriate. But it seems fair to say that many cities would benefit from at least a few more trees here and there.


Nov. 16, 2023

More than one bike path planned along Sauk Creek

City planner describes creek area as biking hub;
it could destroy thousands of trees, birds, wildlife


This NEW plan shows added bike lnes along Randolph Road and Old Sauk Creek Road. East-West bike trails could start in Walnut Grove Park. 

Residents who attended the meeting said that the city is tryiing to make Sauk Creek a bike hub at the cost of losing thousands of trees, scaring away birds and robbing forest creature of their habitat. The city’s own recent measure of who uses the greenway shows walkers are more likely to use the area than bicyclists. 
City officials have consistently told news reporters and neighbors that there is no plan yet, meaning the Planning Department has not released an official proposal for city leaders to approve. They said that neighbors have no solid information to comment on. However, Zeller and others have released their proposals as trail baloons since July. 
“Ben Zeller and other officials are careful to say these plans are not finalized, but the level of detail and the constant updating tells us that the planners and the city bike path office are relentlessly and aggressively pushing the bike path concept forward,” said Gwen Long, a spokesperson for Friends of Sauk Creek. 
The City Planning Department’s official proposal on the bike paths is expected to debut next week as an agenda item for a commission meeting. The bike path may be buried in this proposal called the West Area Plan. Watch this space for details. 
You can attend and speak at the following meetings and/or you can write a letter of protest to the commission that will hold a meeting on the West Area Plan. The meetings include: the Planning Commission which meets Dec. 7 at 5:50 p.m., the Transportation Commission which meets Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. and the Board of the Park Commission which meets on Dec. 13 at 6:30. Insiders say that if the commissions approve the bike paths, which are buried in the West Area Plan, the city council will likely approve this at a meeting in January or February. Ald. Nikki Conklin has not stated a position on this issue.
About 100 neighbors attended and expressed oppostion to the bike path at a meeting Nov. 6 at Memorial High centered on the Engineering Departments construction plan for the creek. (It confuses a lot of us that the bike path involves two separate city agencies and two separate meeting schedules. The major ones involved a bike path are the West Area Plan run by city planners [Ben Zeller] and the Sauk Creek Reconstruction run by city engineers [JoJo O’Brien].) More people wanted to attend the Memorial High meeting but attendance was limited due to the size of the room, city officials said. 
Reporters from almost all local news outlets covered the meeting. JoJo O’Brien, a city engineer, hosted the meeting, and she is the first to have the courtesy and respect to allow a back-and-forth conversation for about 25 minutes. It was heated with a lot of pent-up frustration from our neighbors. Just about a week later Zeller showed his new plan for the creek with additional bike paths to the Sauk Creek meeting, prompting several neighbors to comment that city officials are not listening to us. Renee Callaway, the city official who advocates for bike paths and who attended the Memorial High meeting, responded by adding a bike lane on Randolph to the maps, again signaling that the city cannot hear our strong opposition to a bike path, neighbors said after the meeting at Memorial High. 
For more information about the new east-west bike paths or to help fight to stop the bike paths, contact Gwen Long at gwenlong6@gmail.com. Photos below by Britta Wunderlich-Herr on Geneva Court show wildlife that would be eliminated by multiple bike paths.

Fox build familes along Sauk Creek Greenway and would be eliminated with massive construction that would come with two bike paths that likely will be paved and lit.


Mother possum carries babies in the north area of Sauk Creek.



Oct. 24, 2023

RSVP for Engineering feedback meetings Nov. 6, 9

JoJo O’Brien, a city engineer, will host two meetings in November in an effort to gather our values as she creates the construction plan for Sauk Creek Greenway. 

O’Brien, who has scheduled significantly more meetings with residents than past engineering leaders, said this week that her current plans are conceptual and do not include a bike path. However, the city council will soon vote on recommendation for a bike path in Sauk Creek from another city effort called the West Area Plan, which covers a much larger part of Madison. If the council accepts a recommendations for a Greenway bike path by the West Area Plan team, it likely will be included in the engineering plan, city watchers say.

This is a complicated process in the city in which recommendations from the West Area Plan likely determine what will be included in the Sauk Creek Greenway reconstruction even though planning without one already is underway.

If you have concerns or questions about a bike path in the Greenway, city officials recommend you need to direct them to the Planning Commission which meets Dec. 7 at 5:50 p.m., the Transportation Commission which meets Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. and the Board of the Park Commission which meets on Dec. 13 at 6:30. The city council which likely will vote on the bike path recommendation in the Spring. 

For questions about the Friends of Sauk Creek, contact Gwen Long at gwenlong6@gmail.comFor general information, contact Susan Bruegman at susan.bruegman@att.net. You can also check in at the group’s Facebook group at(20+) Friends of Sauk Creek | Facebook.



Oct. 17, 2023

Updated Nov. 5, 2023


Bike Path included; Register for Community meeting Nov. 6 at Memorial High School

City officials yesterday released the latest update on the preliminary plan for Sauk Creek Reconstruction. You can read about this on the city project website by clicking this link.

The city also issued a PowerPoint Presentation that you can read by clicking this link, Sauk Creek Corridor Plan – Engagement Plan Meeting Presentation_9-26-23

JoJo O’Brien, a city engineer, met with a group of volunteer advisors from several neighborhoods and our alder, Nikki Conklin, to prepare this report. It contains references to a bike path. The Friends of Sauk Creek, an environmental neighborhood group, opposes a bike path because it likely will cause more tree loss after the creek has been cleaned up. Other neighbors, including those in Walnut Grove, have not taken a position. City officials have suggested building a bike path along the maintenance roads on the West side of the creek in order to mitigate tree loss. 

The Friends of Sauk Creek opposition to the bike path in the 5,600-tree 25-acre woods is based mainly on environmental reasons due to the additional tree loss that would occur due to the creek cleanup. Most neighbors and officials agree that the creek badly needs a cleanup after 40 years of no maintenance by the city. However, with the crisis of climate change and the mayor’s leadership position on the Climate Mayor’s group urge preservation of as many trees as possible, the group suggests. Neighbors also question the safety of the terrain and the steepness of the service road off Tree Lane for safe bicycle and wheelchair use. 

O’Brien, a city engineer who has redoubled her efforts to engage residents, said she plans to gather neighbors’ values in the Nov. 6 and Nov. 9 meetings to determine the approach to removing trees. Most agree that the trees along the creek bed will be removed for creekbed reconstruction. There will also be tree loss due to the large city tree removal equipment that will need to enter the Greenway. After that point, O’Brien said she is eager to hear if residents want a simple cleanup or if they have other goals.

The city has not released how many trees it will cut down for the reconstruction. However, a 2018 tree study by the city identified that only 976 of almost 5,600 trees are desirable with more than 2,500 trees or at least 40 percent that are undesirable, including several oaks with disease. In addition, some of the desirable trees along the creek would be removed for construction. Some estimate that more than 4,000 of the approximate 5,600 trees could be removed, dramatically changing the current walking paths, environmentally friendly tree canopy and vistas. Allowing box elder trees, from the maple family, to remain could help reduce this tree loss. 

O’Brien said that she will not have an estimate on tree loss until residents express their views Nov. 6 and Nov. 9. 

Attendees need to register for the Nov. 6 community meeting about the plans at Memorial High School. You can do so at this link

The  Friends of Sauk Creek are also examining recent city information that outlines a bike path in Walnut Grove Park. Details to come. 

For questions about the Friends of Sauk Creek, contact Gwen Long at gwenlong6@gmail.com For general information, contact Susan Bruegman at susan.bruegman@att.net. You can also check in at the group’s Facebook group at (20+) Friends of Sauk Creek | Facebook.


Aug. 30, 2023


Surprising city plans spur urgent action from neighbors. We need your help. 

Several neighbors discovered on July 18 the surprising news that city staffers are planning a paved bike path, possibly with lights, through the Sauk Creek 30-acre woods that could affect properties in Sauk Creek Estates, Tamarack Trails, and the Sauk Creek neighborhood. 

City Planning staff shared this map of the bike path in the July 18 West Area Plan meeting. It runs from Tree Lane to Old Sauk Road and ends in a cul de sac off Highpoint Road. It does not connect to other bike paths.

Friends of Sauk Creek urgently needs volunteers (SEE BELOW) to voice opposition to the $6 million Restoration Plan and the West Area Plan, which includes a proposal for the bike path.

Plans for the bike path began appearing on PowerPoints and Poster Boards in meetings for the West Area Plan in July and August. The city did not send  direct communication by email or snail mail to affected neighbors. Some neighbors argue that this violates city ordinances and policy for engagement of citizens.

City officials said that the bike path is only proposed and the city council needs to approve it. It has been difficult to find the city official who will design or communicate with us about the bike path. Planning staff has proposed it in the West Area Plan, Engineering will build it as part of the Sauk Creek Restoration project, but details on who will give us more details about the bike path is unknown. Until we find that out, we urge you to contact your alder or the city agencies to register your opposition.  They have the final say on city spending. Alders are considering the plan as it moves through a sequence of meetings of agencies, including the Planning Commission, the Finance Committee, the Transportation Commission, and the Board of Public Works. 

Since 2015, city officials have indicated they would not plan a bike path after neighbors cited environmental concerns, safety issues for children, people with disabilities and dogs due to the hilly terrain and the possibility of removing 1,000s of trees.

More than 20 neighbors wrote letters Aug. 23 opposing the surprise bike path to the City Transportation Commission. Many started volunteering after watching 85% of the trees being removed in Phases 1 & 2 of this project north of Mineral Point Road. 

The neighbors cited several concerns:

  • A paved bike path on the west side of the creek overlapping the dirt maintenance road will not save as many trees as city staffers suggest and it will be too close to homes, particularly in Sauk Creek Estates and Sauk Creek neighborhoods.
  • The city did not mail a notice of the proposal to neighbors in violation of city rules, including those of the recently approved Complete Green Street Guide.
  • We do not need, nor can we afford to duplicate the safe bike lanes on the low-traffic High Point and Westfield Roads.


Contact officials to express your concerns

Residents will have a chance to express their opinions on a paved bike path at several city meetings, starting with the virtual Finance Committe budget meeting Monday, Sept. 11 at 4:30 p.m. You can email your concerns to members of the Finance Committee:


A recent map on a Madison Engineering Division website shows the Sauk Creek reconstruction starting in Haen Park and ending at Old Sauk Road.

Jael Currie, alder and common council president, district16@cityofmadison.com; Ald. Marsha A. Rummel, district6@cityofmadison.com; Ald. Michael Verveer, district 4@cityofmadison.com; Ald Regina Vidaver, district5@cityofmadison.com; Ald. Sabrina Madison, district7@cityofmadison.com; Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, mayor@cityofmadison.com; Ald. Tag Evers, district13@cityofmadison.com. The email address for the committee is financecommittee@cityofmadison.com.

The Planning Commission will consider the West Area Plan later this year. We are collecting petitions to present at these meetings, and we need volunteers. 

The best time to stop this path is NOW before the plan gets the rubber-stamp of the City. To sign up for the Friends of Sauk Creek real-time updates by email, contact Gwen Long at gwenlong6@gmail.com For general information, contact Susan Bruegman at susan.bruegman@att.net or visit our website at this link, FriendsofSaukCreek.







Please review the list of needed help and volunteer by emailing your choice to Gwenlong6@gmail.com You will help the short-staffed core volunteers that research information and updates on the 30-acre Sauk Creek Renovation Project.

Volunteer Jobs for Friends of Sauk Creek

Call, email or visit neighbors to alert them to meetings coming up or to solicit help.

Plan an event at the Tamarack Trails clubhouse in September or October to update neighbors.

Provide treats or beverages at a September or October meeting.

Create a website for Friends of Sauk Creek (FOSC).

Cleanup and add names to the FOSC email list.

Ask neighbors if they will post lawn signs in their yard or window.

Write emails to our elected city officials such an Alder Nikki Conklin, district9@cityofmadison.com.

Create PowerPoints for meetings to explain facts to neighbors.

Create signs that advocates can use at city meetings.

Attend meetings with city agencies and the city council to testify about FOSC issues.

Find a friend who has a drone and can video the woods now to show before and after.

Attend FOSC core group meetings usually on Sunday nights to provide ideas.

Write letters to the editor and emails to city officials about FOSC issues. We have templates.

Host “living room” meetings for neighbors to update them on the Sauk Creek project.

Share your email program (Mail Chimp or Constant Comment?) or Zoom account with FOSC.

Read and analyze documents/emails requested by FOSC from the city government.

Circulate petitions opposing a bike path in Sauk Creek Woods.


June 18, 2023


Core group prepares for possible meetings with City Engineers next month

Are you ready for a meeting with City Engineers about its plans for Sauk Creek reconstruction? We expect to get the yellow post cards in snail mail during  the next two months. Brian S does a great job of keeping us posted on meetings on the Facebook Groups. At one point, city officials said the postcard would only go to residents within 100 yards of the creek. We will work to make sure more people know about it. 

To help you talk to city officials or testify at hearings, the core group of The Friends of Sauk Creek will soon share a Fact Sheet and a Flyer that we hope to distribute by email and in paper in a few residential areas.

Below we have a review and a few updates to share from the past month. 

First a Review:

  • Sauk Creek is an ancient waterway. it is NOT a farm ditch. It is navigable and should not be radically disturbed.
  • The Friends support a cleanup of the creek, which was originally intended as parkland by the Haen family in the 1970s. However, concerns about the important role of trees in climate change and the shrinking number of trees in Madison Greenways prompted the Friends to take action in 2022.
  • Our advocacy group is a loosely organized group of neighbors that makes decisions by consensus, has an email list of 200, meets regularly in core groups of more than 30 neighbors, and sponsors events for about 3,000 residents from five neighborhoods including Walnut Grove, Sauk Creek, Sauk Creek Estates, Oakbridge/Greenbriar Apartments and Tamarack Trails.
  • In fall 2022, Gwen Long led neighbors in two Friends activities: Petitions and lawn signs. The Friends gathered 380 signatures on petitions submitted to the city council and mayor about the downing of a majority of the 6,000 trees along Sauk Creek. Neighbors have posted 80 yard signs opposing the creek construction with excellent help from Susan Buegman. Ginny White published several letters to the Wisconsin State Journal editor. Several local media outlets have written about the Friends’ effort.
  • The Friends have testified at Madison City Council meetings and secured Freedom of Information Act requests. Neighbors including Dawn Zimmerman met with alders, park commissioners, legislators, the mayor of Madison, and representatives of the city’s Park Department. Members have started a web page and Facebook Group.
  • The Friends played a significant role in stopping a mountain bike trail in the Walnut Grove Park.
  • Neighbors in the area have opposed a bike path along Sauk Creek since the early 2000s. The city discarded the effort in 2015. Then in 2018, city presentations included a bike path. A Tamarack Trails group led by Mike Riley opposed the bike path in talks with city officials in 2018 citing the hilly terrain which would make safety an issue for walkers, children and dogs dodging speeding bikes coming down elevated entry points. The group also cited studies that showed paving and tree loss would create environmental challenges that would not help flood mitigation but would impair it. No new mention of a bike path occurred until neighbors found a bike path map tucked inside documents for the West Area Plan in May 2022 and it appears to have an entry point from Walnut Grove Park.  


  • George Meyer will gather a small group of environmental experts to advise the City Engineers office. Thank you, George.
  • We sent a press release on the role of trees in cleaning the air from the forest fires’ noxious chemicals but it feel flat. Thank you Michael Notaro and Gwen Long for quick work last week. 
  • The Friends plan to sponsor a summit for neighborhood leaders of Greenway efforts to unite efforts to save the many trees. More to come on this collaborative effort.


To contact the Friends of Sauk Creek and receive news via email, contact Gwen Long at gwenlong6@gmail.com or Randy Bruegman at rbruegman@icloud.com

May 25, 2023


Neighbors strongly urge you fill out a survey by May 31 opposing bike path in Sauk Creek Woods

Several advocates were surprised to see a map this week that suggested the city will build a bike path along the Sauk Creek in the Greenway. Friends of Sauk Creek strongly urge you to fill out a survey from the city by May 31 at this address: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WestPlan1 and oppose the bike path.

The map released about 10 days ago was buried on a city website describing several Madison West Area Plan projects. You can see this map by going to the Background Map link on https://www.cityofmadison.com/dpced/planning/west-area-plan/3896      It is the sixth map in the collection. 

We are seeking explanation of this surprise from city officials. Many of us attended a series of meetings during the past four months on the West Area Plan and the bike path was not presented or mentioned in presentations. We have opposed this bike path since 2018 because it would mean significant tree loss above and beyond the removal of invasive trees and trees that need to be removed to get massive logging machinery and creek widening machinery into the woods. It also could increase water absorption problems that could contrbute to flooding. We thought this plan was delayed or that we would have input into its construction.

We are experiencing a gap in communication between two departments in the city government: Engineering and Traffic. The Greenway issues are controlled by the city Engineering Division. Bike path plans come out of the city’s Pedestrian Bicycle Administrator’s office in the Traffic Division. Last fall, the Engineering Division said publicly that it could not stop a bike path because it only controls stormwater issues. Friends of Sauk Creek pushed back saying if the Engineering Division is in charge of the Sauk Creek Woods Reconstruction and wastewater control, then it should have authority of whatever is built inside the woods that could affect waterwater flow. 

in about 2018, the city suggested an asphalt bike path similar to the service road at Randolph and Tree Lane, which Sauk Creek neighbors and advocates opposed given that the stormwater issues appear to originate in the impermeable asphalt at Menards, Target and West Towne areas. More asphalt is not environmentally friendly to water absorption in area woods.  

Our position has been from our beginnings about a year ago that The Friends of Sauk Creek support the city and realize it needs our guidance about issues involving the environment in the Sauk Creek area that affect neighbors in Oak Bridge, Sauk Creek, Sauk Creek Estates, Tamarak Trails and Walnut Grove neighborhoods. We need to give the city our reaction to this sudden bike path addition NOW.

In addition to a bike path and the reconstruction of Sauk Creek, the West Area Plan includes projects involving residential zoning issues south of Tree Lane, the Mineral Point Bus Plan/Routes, changes in left turns off Mineral Point that increase traffic in our area and Park Division issues. Neighbors can also comment on these concerns on the survey due May 31. 

We’ve made good progress as we reported May 17. The bike path plan and the way the city obscured its introduction of its most recent plan to build it represents a setback. 

May 17, 2023



Walnut Grove Park Bike path declared dead; city engineers will reach out to us for Sauk Creek planning

Our neighborhoods got great news at the West Area Plan Open House at Lussier Community Center May 10 and it’s due to your hard work over the past year.

  • Mountain Bike Path dead. A city official told neighbor George Meyer at the May 10 community meeting that The Walnut Grove Park mountain bike project is now permanently canceled due in large part to your advocacy work.
  • City Engineers to engage us in planning. The city engineer assigned to the Sauk Creek project met informally with neighbors at the same meeting and said she will begin meetings with neighbors to determine our values before she does the conceptual design for the restoration. She told a group that she wants to keep the width of the creek close to its current state.

This is a 180-degree change from the approach the city engineers took in 2018 until COVID delayed the project. That plan involved the city creating a plan and then asking us for comment after it was done.

Your relentless energy getting the public’s attention on these two issues did the trick. It looked glum for several months. The Zoom meeting with the Parks Department last year was disrespectful and many of us were shocked at the way the park employees treated our older neighbors.

We met many roadblocks on the Sauk Creek project, but your resilient spirit pushed through when several city officials, including our alder and the mayor, did not reply to many requests for meetings, information, and legislative and mayoral support. They referred to the creek as a “farm ditch” in the State Journal.

Here’s what we did in just one year:

  • We created a loosely organized advocacy group called the Friends of Sauk Creek that kept everyone informed and worked behind the scenes, so the city heard our voices.
  • We circulated a petition against the bike path and a petition asking for consultation on the Sauk Creek plans. Hundreds of voters signed them.
  • Several of us requested documents through the Freedom of Information Act to get the detailed information needed for our advocacy.
  • A group of us attended a city council meeting on the budget that included Sauk Creek funding, and several spoke in person to the council and the remote audience.
  • We held planning meetings and brainstorming sessions on Zoom, often led by Gwen Long and Susan Bruegman.
  • We started a webpage and a Facebook Group to keep all of us up to date on issues and city actions.
  • Some of us wrote letters to the editor at the State Journal with pointed criticism of the city’s actions.
  • We participated in a front-page State Journal story that gave the community our side and put to rest the derogatory wording about the creek, such as “farm ditch.”
  • Others of us worked our networks and found like-minded advocates on climate change and the environment, most of them in our area and state. They supported us.
  • We proudly tapped our neighbors’ expertise, primarily Michael Notaro, George Meyer, Randy Bruegman and Nino Amato, for panels about our issues before the election.
  • We printed lawn signs for the Sauk Creek and Walnut Grove neighborhoods alerting passersby about the possible outcome of the creek construction.
  • Many neighbors ran important errands, researched city budgets, scoured the Sauk Creek Restoration web pages and read hundreds of pages of history and reports to get us up to speed so we could speak confidently with officials in our emails.

Thank you!

We plan to continue to work with the officials who spoke to us in groups May 10. We want to be helpful and yet strong about the neighborhood’s stance on the environment and our values about how many trees should be cut down and what species should be saved. We oppose a bike path down the center of the Greenway because of tree loss.

We are now planning new updated lawn signs and we will continue meeting in one of the core groups to plan new initiatives. One new idea may include a gathering of other Madison neighborhoods also facing greenway or environmental issues in their backyards.

We need your help to keep the momentum going. No effort is too small to make a difference. Email Gwen Long at gwenlong6@gmail.com for more information.





May 7, 2023

Help the Creek by attending May 10 Meeting

City Engineers will take your questions at Lussier Center on the coming creek reconstruction

The birds happily chirp in chorus, the creek glitters, the trees bud, and the wildflowers spread across the floor of the woods. We are grateful for the beauty of our neighborhood. And we are grateful for your help this past year.

Recently, many neighbors picked up bags of trash in the creek area in honor of Earth Day.

A large core group from three neighborhoods, including Sauk Creek, Tamarack Trails and Walnut Grove, met regularly this winter and pulled together two information sessions at Alicia Ashman Library on Highpoint before the spring elections as city engineers renewed work on the Sauk Creek reconstruction project that has been in the works since 2018. More than 80 people attended giving us new energy. Many said they did not know how significantly changes could negatively effect conditions in the creek, among the trees and in neighbors’ back yards.

Volunteers attended city meetings last Fall and reached out to officials. We still do not have any solid news on the next steps. A city engineer is drafting a conceptual plan and neighborhood meetings on the Sauk Creek Woods cleanup and tree removals were mentioned but none have been scheduled.

However, very soon we may get a chance to talk to the city engineers who are in charge of the creek reconstruction. Seven city departments will speak on a handful of projects called the West Area Plan at a city meeting on May 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Lussier Community Education Center, 55 South Gammon Road. Organizers said city engineers will attend to talk about greenways, a designation that the city has given to Sauk Creek.  

Previous versions of this meeting split up attendees for the Question and Answer session. If you are interested in the creek issues, be careful to choose the city engineering discussion group. If you are inadvertently put into another group, you can ask questions, but engineers will not be there to answer them. 

The Friends of Sauk Creek volunteers strongly recommend that you attend the May 10 meeting. For more information, go to the city website at this link, West Area Plan meeting. 

Yards signs will also be available soon from Gwen Long at gwenlong6@gmail.com. Please message her if you are interested.




Nov. 12, 2022

Speak Out at the Nov. 15 City Council Budget Hearing

It’s our last chance in 2022 to prompt city engineering to tell us its plans for the trees, wildlife

We finally get a chance Nov. 15 at 5:30 p.m. to tell the city council our opinions about its plans to fund changes in Sauk Creek Woods. We only have a few hints about the scope of the project because the city engineers say they don’t have a design yet. How can they not have a design if they want the city council $4 million for Sauk Creek reconstruction? Engineers refuse to give us the details. We do not know how many of our 5,500 trees will be removed due to reconstruction and what will happen in Haen Park. Several of our neighbors have spoken out at meetings and in the media against such a haphazard process that could give city engineering too much power to do whatever it wants in the woods. 

Even the city engineers have said at meetings that neighbors need to be prepared for Sauk Creek to look very different. How different? The mayor has told us in person at a Yola’s Cafe meeting that Sauk Creek is not a park but a stormwater conveyance tool. City engineers were quoted in a statement read by our Alder Nikki Conklin recently that the Sauk Creek area is “not a woods.” They refer to the creek as a farm ditch and they hint that the creek will be widened significantly and all trees within 20 feet of each bank will be cut down. 

We get one last chance before the city locks into its plans that have not been publicly shared and which we have had to opportunity to design. You can register to attend and/or speak in person or virtually at the Nov. 15 meeting  at https://www.cityofmadison.com/MeetingRegistration

Help the engineers understand how those who care about climate change and our wildlife prefer the changes to occur. Following are talking points you can use by speaking at the Nov. 15 council meeting, writing your opinions in an email or letter to your alder, or talking to your neighbors. 

For more information, contact Gwen Long by text (preferred) 608-290-4997 or by email at gwenlong6@gmail.com. 

Nov. 15, 2022 Talking Points

Our shared goal for Sauk Creek woods and creek

We support the cleanup of the area if the city uses citizen decision-making rather than just telling neighbors what city engineers are going to do. We want the city to promise that any changes to the Sauk Creek woods and creek will be environmentally friendly. 

  • We want the council and mayor to deny the Sauk Creek Restoration budget requests in November until we have a guarantee on citizen engagement and environmental protection.
  • We have support. We gathered 380 signatures on petitions and neighbors submitted 56 on-line comments to city officials supporting the woods/wildlife an environment.  We have 40 yard signs posted in 3 neighborhoods informing the public of the project.
  • We want the Mayor and Common Council’s to honor their commitments to the environment. This project conflicts with the City’s sustainability goal #7, which is to restore and maintain natural habitat.
  • We want to save our neighborhood and woodlands.
  • We want to save the wildlife in our area. 
  • We want to stop climate change and save the environmental. Discussion on the carbon dioxide absorbing/oxygen providing mature trees will help that cause. 
  • We want to save a heritage woods that has been here for centuries and has not been farmed.  
  • We want our community to do the right thing.  Cutting down the trees, planting grasses and mowing might be easier, but it is not the right thing for the environment/wildlife/community.
  • We want to right-size the over-engineered plans from 2018.
  • We support neighbors who feel that they have been silenced by the lack of response from city officials on this important environmental issue that influence climate change.
  • We have had to rely primarily on info from 2018 reports and it is outdated. Our experience in the areas behind Mineral Point Walgreens, Rocky Rococo’s and on Lake Mendota Drive concerns us.
  • The City’s FAQ which was released Oct. 30 on its website is helpful but doesn’t give neighbors new information except that the project will start in 2024. 
  • Neighbors say that waiting to start city engineering engagement with us in Spring 2023 after the city completes its design will be too late for voters/constituents to influence decisions on this important environmental topic. 
  • Neighbors strongly oppose a bike path as mentioned in the new FAQ and hold the mayor, council, and city engineers responsible for taking down more trees for the unsupported bike path. The city has responsibility to stop the Greater Madison Metro Planning Organization’s plan.
  • Research suggests the source of the water issues starts with the commercial property where Target and Menards now stand. Neighbors want to know the city does not hold hose companies responsible for and demand that they participate in correcting these water issues their commercial properties created.  Why is it all on the taxpayers?


Sept. 9, 2022 


Madison will lose our unique 26-acre urban woods if we do not act now  

The Friends of Sauk Creek, a group of environmentalists and neighbors, strongly urges you to join us in opposition to city plans to convert this earth-friendly 26-acre wooded nature area with a mile-long creek into a mowed-grass stormwater channel that would remove thousands of mature trees. 

Madison citizens will pay for this $6 million to $8- million-plus project through City Utility Rates increases. Yet we cannot get details on plans, processes, designs, and timing of the reconstruction of the area, located near Walnut Creek, Tamarack Trails, Oakbridge, and Sauk Creek neighborhoods.  

City officials repeatedly ignore or deny requests for meetings with Friends of Sauk Creek even as plans appear to keep changing from information on the City’s project page. City spokespeople previously assured residents bike paths were not part of this project, but citizen research recently discovered in a city budget document that funds are proposed to build a greenway bike path along Sauk Creek. 

City officials continue to warn residents that it needs to take drastic action in Sauk Creek to avoid flooding of homes. The Friends of Sauk Creek found no evidence of residential flooding in 2018 and research points to problems in other locations such as the under-sized culverts under the Beltline and High Point Road.

Mayor, City Engineering warn about tree removal

The city’s engineering department and Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway separately said in recent public meetings that a significant number of the 5,500 trees along Sauk Creek will be cut down and removed because, as the mayor said, the area is “not a park for your recreation” but a greenway with the sole purpose of moving stormwater. Sauk Creek Greenway Reconstruction would not be considered for a tree-friendly renovation like Owen Park’s restoration, officials say.  

Yet our alders appear to get little information from the City’s Engineering Department and the council members need our help understanding how the people who vote for them see these important issues. 

Less than 1,000 trees are quality trees

A 2018 presentation for residents by city engineering staff said the “Greenway will look considerably different” after reconstruction with plantings of grasses and shrubs, trees removed near the creek and a 10-foot gravel path along the creek after stabilization. (Scroll down page to Public Information Meetings for this presentation.) The engineers said the city policy is to restore greenways to grass greenways but planned to save as many quality trees as possible in Sauk Creek.

Unfortunately, the city’s own tree survey states that only 976 of the woods 5,550 trees or 17 percent are quality trees. The 2018 presentation said even quality trees near the creek would be “disturbed’ and areas with non quality trees, such as box elders, would be targeted for removal.

This de-foresting Sauk Creek is in conflict with the 2020 Madison Urban Forestry Task Force report encouraging tree canopies.

Alternatives available

City engineering could redirect its expensive Sauk Creek plans to fixing culverts under roads, eliminating water run-off elsewhere, and by expanding and dredging of existing retention ponds. We need to get the alders’ attention as they consider funds for the Sauk Creek project through the 2023 Capital Budget process that ends in November. The city’s plan would be hard to change after that date.

With 38 watershed projects slated for the city, the Sauk Creek reconstruction could set an ominous precedent for the future of other Madison neighborhoods.

Next steps: Sept. 12, 13

The best chance for our neighborhoods to show our opposition to the over-engineered plan to tear apart Sauk Creek woods comes next week with important city council meetings.

We urge you and as many supporters as you can gather to attend two virtual meetings Monday, Sept. 12, and Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 4:30 p.m. to oppose the Sauk Creek reconstruction. Council members make important decisions during these meetings, including whether the Sauk Creek project will get funded. While the process continues through Nov. 15, after the first meetings, we will have little opportunity to influence change of the direction for removal of thousands of trees in Sauk Creek. 

Our only opportunity to speak next week is a meeting is on Monday, Sept. 12. We urge advocates to register to speak. See directions below. You can also show support by virtually attending Monday’s meeting and writing an email in opposition to the city council. 

Tuesday is also virtual only. Residents cannot speak. It is an official Capital Budget Hearing. We urge you to attend to show our alders that we are listening. Here are tips to find the meeting. 

In the meantime, below are other ways you can help The Friends of Sauk Creek be heard at city hall.

Help now before trees are cut down

  1. Write letters to the Editor of Wisconsin State Journal and other publications
  •  Join “Friends of Sauk Creek” on Facebook Groups:
    • Share your point of view
    • Keep up to date on project and issue.
  •  Join a confidential communication list for updates
  • Bookmark this website: https://foleymediagroup.com/home/friends-sauk-creek/


Details for Sept. 12, 13 City Council Actions

Below are instructions on how to attend, speak or give feedback at the important City Council Finance Committee meetings.


    • Look for the box that says REGISTER FOR PUBLIC COMMENT and click it. 
    • It will ask which agenda item you want to speak about. View the agenda through the link to choose your agenda item and type that into the box. Our agenda item is # 26. 
    • Fill in the other required information and click the REGISTER button. 
  • To view and listen to the meeting: 
  • To send feedback about #26 agenda item:
  • Talking Points 
    • We are in favor of environmentally friendly stormwater improvements to the Sauk Creek Waterway.  However, any improvements must be developed with full public disclosure and input.  Such a plan should be consistent with sustainability objectives and not cause significant environmental damage to the 5,595 trees and habitats of birds, bats, and vegetation in this unique urban 26.5 acre woods and 1-mile waterway corridor. 
    • Until we receive and can review more specific information from City Engineering, we oppose the Stormwater Utility’s 2023 capital budget for project #11665 on the Sauk Greenway Project and the Capital Improvement Plan for 2024 through 2028.
    • We currently oppose the carryover of the allocated capital of $1,445,000 (or unused funds) approved in the 2021 Capital Improvement Plan for Phases 3 & 4 of the Sauk Creek Greenway project because the City has failed to adequately inform residents of the plans for this stormwater project and expenditures.  
    • We oppose moving budget dollars from two other stormwater projects, which were deemed NOT supported by their communities, and we oppose moving those funds to the Sauk Creek Phases 3 & 4 Projects, which cover the areas from Tree Lane to Highpoint Road.
    • We support environmental methods of stormwater control, supported by Federal and University of Wisconsin–Madison contractors, that do not need the removal of so many trees along the creek to complete this project. We support these less expensive solutions for the stormwater management.
    • We oppose engineering practices that would destroy a significant number of the 5,500 trees in the 26-acre Sauk Creek Woods, similar to those practices used in two previously completed projects upstream, one behind the Mineral Point Walgreens and the other behind Rocky Rococo resaturant. 
    • We oppose the bike path planned for the Sauk Creek Woods due to the lack of information provided to residents and the path’s disruption of nature and wildlife in the area given the city’s commitment to the environment. There are several other bike paths and bike lanes in the area. 



Here at the instructions to view the virtual Sept. 13 meeting, which is the alders’ official Budget Hearing. The only agenda item so far is the Capital Budget. The budget is a long, complex document and it’s difficult to find parts that mention Sauk Creek projects. Try pages 4, 10 and 12. 

  • To view and listen to the meeting: 
    • Go to the meeting site at 4:30 p.m. Click here. 
    • Click the button WATCH ONLINE.
    • Look for the meeting you are interested in among the boxes with the antenna-like symbol. In this case, choose Sept. 13. 
    • There is also a phone option.
  • To send feedback to alders on the Sauk Creek reconstruction
  • Talking Points
    • We are in favor of environmentally friendly stormwater improvements to the Sauk Creek Waterway.  However, any improvements must be developed with full public disclosure and input.  Such a plan should be consistent with sustainability objectives and not cause significant environmental damage to the 5,595 trees and habitats of birds, bats, and vegetation in this unique urban 26.5 acre woods and 1-mile waterway corridor. 
    • Until we receive and can review more specific information from City Engineering, we oppose the Stormwater Utility’s 2023 capital budget for project #11665 on the Sauk Greenway Project and the Capital Improvement Plan for 2024 through 2028.
    • We currently oppose the carryover of the allocated capital of $1,445,000 (or unused funds) approved in the 2021 Capital Improvement Plan for Phases 3 & 4 of the Sauk Creek Greenway project because the City has failed to adequately inform residents of the plans for this stormwater project and expenditures.  
    • We oppose moving budget dollars from two other stormwater projects, which were NOT supported by their communities, and we oppose moving those funds to the Sauk Creek Phases 3 & 4 Projects, which cover the areas from Tree Lane to Highpoint Road.
    • We support environmental methods of stormwater control, supported by Federal and University of Wisconsin—Madison contractors, that do not need the removal of so many trees along the creek to complete this project. We support these less expensive solutions for the stormwater management.
    • We oppose engineering practices that would destroy a significant number of the 5,500 trees in the 26-acre Sauk Creek Woods, similar to those practices used in two previously completed projects upstream, one behind the Mineral Point Walgreens and the other behind Rocky Rococo resaturant. 
    • We oppose the bike path planned for the Sauk Creek Woods due to the lack of information provided to residents and the path’s disruption of nature and wildlife, which runs counter to the city’s commitment to the environment. There are several other bike paths and bike lanes in the area. 


Aug. 2, 2022

Advocates fight to save 5,000 TREES in Far West Madison

Newly formed Friends of Sauk Creek seeks help for the environment from neighbors, experts

Overview Map of Greenway System and Project Area

A growing group of neighbors in more than three West Madison neighborhoods—Walnut Grove, Sauk Creek and Tamarack Trails—joined together recently to stop plans to remove 5,500 trees during a reconstruction of Sauk Creek, a well-established dog-walking and nature hiking area called a jewel of urban forests.

Advocates from these neighborhoods will update this webpage with new information as it is released.

Concerned neighbors say the city has failed to communicate well on this plan under study for at least five years. City engineers continually promise to responsibly save wildlife, trees, and wildflowers but then they unexpectedly denude areas in an afternoon, as they did behind the Mineral Point Walgreens and in the nearby Oakbridge neighborhood behind Rocky Rococos, neighbors point out.

in a statement sent recently through Ald. Nikki Conklin, city engineers said that the greenway is “not a woods.” Other city officials have said Sauk Creek is simply a drainage ditch, which neighborhood leaders said shocked them.

A former stream on a farm owned by the Haen family, Sauk Creek is clogged with downed trees and debris due to 40-years of city inattention and most residents agree the creek needs city help to increase water flow through the area surrounded by runoff from West Towne, the Menards development on Commerce Drive and the Target at Prairie Town Mall off Mineral Point. However, activist neighbors, many of them retired after careers in public service, say they are alarmed by recent disclosures about city mistakes on city lands such as Reindahl Park on the East Side and more recently the surprise cutting down of trees in the Robin Parkway Greenway in Hill Farms. A core group of retired attorneys and engineers, a former state secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, two former alders, retired university professors and health care executives who live in the area now oppose the city’s overengineering water control projects in the Sauk Creek woods and its destruction of urban nature areas that Mayor Satya Conway Rhodes wants protected.

In recent months, residents have criticized the city for dodging queries for information and requests for clarity on the city plans. The city engineers, who have control of greenways, said that construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2023 and action at the city council and Board of Public Works has begun to build budgets and plan bidding processes.

Neighborhood groups encourage others support the effort by viewing the Facebook Group Page called Friends of Sauk Creek or contacting Gwen Long at gwenlong6@gmail.com or Nino Amato at namato@cwag.org.