Friday, September 30, 2011

An Unsolicited Plan for a Mullins Creek Greenway

I wrote an earlier piece on how UA needed to take a page out of UALR's book and create a Mullins Creek Greenway, similar to UALR's Coleman Creek Greenway, but I didn't include many specifics.  So here is my plan for Mullins Creek in greater detail:

Overall Objectives:
1.  Provide the campus community a scenic and safe trail that connects housing areas, athletic facilities, classrooms, and shopping areas.
2.  Improve the habitat and water quality of Mullins Creek.
3.  Provide a viable alternative to driving around campus that is healthier, more scenic, and just as fast.

Stage 1: The Cheap Stuff
1.  Establish a "no-mow" zone around the creek.  This would actually be more of a mow twice a year zone that would immediately help decrease erosion along the creek, improve water quality and provide habitat for wildlife.

2.  To avoid looking like an overgrown drainage ditch, attractive native grasses, shrubs and trees could be planted along the banks for little extra cost.  Inland sea oats, soft rush, blackgum, red bud, sycamore, and dogwoods are just a few examples of attractive plants that would improve aesthetics, water quality, and habitat.  Streambank and wetland plants can typically be purchases for ~$1 a plug.  Tree prices vary depending on size, but can be as cheap as $30 for a 6' tall tree.  Smaller sapplings go for 10 cents when bought in bulk.  If done as part of an official mitigation plan, this project might even pay for itself.

Stage 2:  The Not Cheap, but Not Really That Expensive Stuff
1.  Increase the width of existing trails/sidewalks to at least 12 feet.
2.  Move existing sidewalks that are within 10 feet of the creek (red on the map) farther away.  Placing a path too close to the creek can, and has, led to bank erosion, flooded trails, and expensive repairs.
3.  Pave new sections of trail to connect existing sections each other and dorms, apartments, athletic facilities, classrooms, and shopping areas.

Stage 3:  The Expensive Stuff.
1.  Remove the parking lot at MLK and Razorback Rd.  Replace it with a 3-4 story parking deck located away from the creek that has 1/3 the footprint (shown in red and green below).
2.  Convert the old parking area nearest the creek to a Trail of Tears Park with educational signage.
3.  Build  a pedestrian bridge over MLK.  This street is really busy and waiting to cross it can be a pain.
4.  Perform a coordinated, natural channel design, stream restoration of the creek where it is above ground on campus.  This will save money on maintenance in the long-run and improve water quality and habitat on campus and downstream.

Here is a map of the proposed trail. The majority of this is already in place. Existing sections would just need to be improved and short connections would need to be made.

View Mullins Creek Greenway (College Branch) in a larger map

Here it is with other major bike/pedestrian paths.

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