Sauk Creek Greenway Restoration 2020

Last Updated: 06/22/2018


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


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.


The initial public involvement meeting has been held, the next meeting will be held once the engineering modeling work has been completed. Once done, the City will be able to estimate the quantities of trees impacted, channel cross sections, etc.

The greenway is a public land and a community-wide asset and believes the result of the project will create a more sustainable wooded area for all residents and future generations to enjoy.

If you are interested in volunteering or coordinating volunteerism to help maintain the wooded area in the future, please contact Jojo O’Brien, the project manager.

Public Information Meeting
The first Public Information Meeting was held on Tuesday, March 13th. 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

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