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Friends of Sauk Creek

Sept. 9, 2022 

SAVE THE TREES OF SAUK CREEK WOODS

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.

FINANCE COMMITTEE MEETING SEPT. 12

    • 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. 

 

FINANCE COMMITTEE MEETING SEPT. 13

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. 
  •  

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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.