Arboretum suffers extensive flood damage

FRIDAY, JUNE 20, 2008

Report from Steve Glass, Arboretum Land Care Manager.

When the rains began about 7 p.m. on Saturday June 7, and finally let up Monday evening, (48 hours later) 6.5 inches of water filled the National Weather Service (NWS) rain gauges. Madison had experienced a 50-year, 48 hour storm event.

However, most of us—including those who care for the Arboretum—now just think of it as a mess, although not as big and serious as the one faced by those who live along the Mississippi and other Midwestern rivers.

In the Arboretum, some storm water detention channels and ponds were overwhelmed and suffered serious erosion and gouging which resulted in great loss of soil and transport of sediments and nutrients to wetlands and Lake Wingra.

Some roads and footpaths were washed out entirely while many others were eroded enough to make them unsafe for foot or vehicle traffic.

Large trees were felled like matchsticks by powerful winds. Even after the storms, trees continue to topple in the slightest breeze because the saturated soil can’t hold them upright.

We have not even begun to calculate the immediate and long-term impacts of the June storms on our restorations and ecosystem functions and processes.

Arboretum staff are now faced with an interruption of regular restoration work, constraints on our ability to move about the Arboretum, and a big clean up and repair job.

Visitors too will face prohibitions on using their normal walking or running routes and may be unable to visit their favorite Arboretum spots.

For public safety reasons, some footpaths and service drives will be posted as closed and barricaded. Examples of trail conditions include: the pedestrian underpass under the Beltline Hwy is flooded and closed.

The footpath on the Grady Tract from T-1 at the gate to T-7 at the pedestrian tunnel is closed because of severe erosion and unsafe walking conditions; and the North-South service drive in Curtis Prairie from B-3 to B-8 is closed because parts of it have been washed out.

Until clean up and repairs are completed sometime this late fall, visitors will be asked to respect these temporary closures and use suggested alternate routes. Trail closures and re-openings will be a work in progress and updates will be issued as needed. Stay tuned to the Arboretum Web site for updates.

Located between Lake Wingra and the West Beltline Highway at 1207 Seminole Highway, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum features the restored prairies, forests and wetlands of pre-settlement Wisconsin. This 1,260-acre arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Educational tours for groups and the general public, science and nature-based classes for all ages and abilities, and a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for groups, families and individuals are available.