Thursday, September 29, 2011

UA needs to Copy UALR - Mullins Creek vs. Coleman Creek

Mullins Creek on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville has a lot in common with Coleman Creek which flows through UALR's campus in Little Rock. Both creeks:

1. Flow through campus and were historically treated more as obstacles than amenities.
2. Had buildings built OVER them.
3. Were crossed by the Trail of Tears. (and at what is now the southern end of each campus even!)
4. Face problems associated with rapid urban development of their watersheds. (trash, erosion)
5. Are impacted by Razorback football game tailgating. (War Memorial Park in Little Rock, Razorback Gardens in Fayetteville.)

With all they have in common, their recent history couldn't be more different.

1. Formed the Coleman Creek Greenway Committee with experts in landscape architecture, environmental engineering, ecology, GIS, habitat restoration, trails, etc.
2. Came up with plans to improve the creek's habitat and water quality.
3. Developed plans for a wide, paved, bike and pedestrian trail that will eventually run along both sides of the creek and connect the campus to surrounding neighborhoods and city parks.
4. Tore down multiple buildings and ripped up acres of parking to build Trail of Tears Park, which has educational signage and native plant landscaping along the first section of the trail to be completed.
5. Is working to decrease vehicular traffic through campus and boost bike and pedestrian traffic.

1. Threw some boulders in the creek, which actually sped erosion, and called it a day.
(I don't know if this is completely fair, since I haven't been in Fayetteville for very long. I've read that plans for a restoration are being drawn up but haven't seen any evidence of plans or intent to implement them. UA did remove buildings where Razorback Gardens and the baseball field are, but I think this was done more for sports than the creek.)

UA needs to form a Mullins Creek Greenway Committee with the full backing of the Chancellor. The goals of this committee need to be to:

1. Boost student access to, and appreciation of, Mullins Creek.
2. Improve water quality in Mullins Creek.
3. Improve habitat and the aesthetics of the creek.
4. Find ways to better link the creek and campus to the surrounding community.

Here are some basic ways some of these goals could be accomplished:

1. Conduct a natural stream channel restoration of the sections of the creek that are still above ground. As part of this, plant the banks with native grasses, shrubs, and trees and limit mowing of a 25' buffer along the creek to once or twice a year.
2. Expand and improve the sidewalks along and near the trail. Take the trail to the southern end of campus and connect it to the Tsa La Gi Trail and Hill Place Apartments.
3. Create a Trail of Tears Park at the southern edge of campus that educates people on the history of the Trail of Tears. Make sure this park is connected to the main trail along the creek.
4. In the long run, seek to remove impervious surfaces on campus. Install green roofs, rain gardens, and bioswales. Store rainwater in cisterns and use that for irrigation on campus.

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