Friends of Starkweather Creek

Trickle Newsletter July: 2015

Friends of Starkweather Creek Page
Friends of Starkweather Creek Page
Friends of Starkweather Creek (FSC) was started in February 2002 by a group of concerned citizens who wanted to promote the rejuvenation of Starkweather Creek.  Over the years, FSC has organized creek clean-ups and celebrations to raise awareness and pride in the creek.  We also actively advocate for responsible development in the watershed and for commitments from city government to improve the creek. 

As you think about summer plans, consider visiting your local Starkweather Creek for a paddle or “like” our Facebook page to keep up with FSC happenings.

June 19 - August 14:

Watershed Wanders and Wonders (With Goodman CC Youth)

By Carl Landsness

I had an extremely fulfilling (and challenging) experience guiding eight fourth and fifth graders (from Goodman CC) on the first two of eight "Watershed Wanders and Wonders" outings recently… to connect youth with the light and dark side of our Starkweather Creek watershed.  The first was a four-hour excursion (by land) to both magical and marred examples of this highly modified (and abused) watershed… places that few know about or visit. The second was a two-hour excursion (by water) up the creek (with a paddle) to natural and human-made wonders (stimulating awe and glee of innocent children and enlightened elders). 

What We Saw

Both children and elders expressed amazement and horror at the surprises they encountered… ranging from wildlife and beauty to human trash and abuse (in ways those on wheels never see or know). Some said it was the best thing they'd ever done.

Healing and Respect

I gained huge respect and empathy for today's youth and mentors… disconnected from the healing and uplifting gifts of nature due to technology, fear, rules, and judgments (per Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv) .


Thanks so much to the adult mentors on these wanders: Sean Gere, Paul Noeldner, Chris Wood, Chris of Mad City Paddlers, Dominic Desano, Shaheen Sutterwala, and Deborah Crabtree. Their unique wisdom, caring, patience and playfulness catalyzed the kind of magic I cherish… giving me hope for our wounded youth and world. Thanks also to David Pulkowski for catalyzing this magical mystery tour, and to Allison Werner and Betty Chewing for their magic water chariots. There will be more updates on this program in our next newsletter.

FSC Table at Solstice Celebration 

(pictured is Rhonda Martin; Photo by Lance Green)

Proposed Development on Far East Side 

By Dea Larsen Converse

As part of our mission to promote responsible development near the creek, the Friends have been working with neighbors, alders and representatives of T Wall Enterprises to address the impact of a proposed development at 5422 Portage Road on the far-east side. 


Neighbors are concerned about the density of the proposed development on the border of an established neighborhood of single-family homes.  FSC is primarily concerned about setbacks from the wetland, the possibility of runoff into the creek during construction, the loss of mature trees on the site, and public access.  FSC formalized our concerns in letters to the Madison City Council.  Here is a link to the letters.

Results of our Comments

FSC and neighborhood comments resulted in a small reduction in the density of the project, a survey of the trees by a certified arborist, and a commitment to educational signage in the greenway.  However, the setback from the wetland is not part of the conditions put in place by the city.  Reviews by the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) and the DNR are not yet complete; however, it is our understanding that the recent state budget may impact setback requirements in the area.

Future Work

Friends are continuing to meet with representatives from T Wall Enterprises, alders, the City of Madison, and neighbors as the project progresses. In particular, FSC is providing input on landscaping and educational signage for the greenway on the south half of the property, which contains the creek, wetlands, sections of forest and meadow, a sanitary sewer line and, eventually, a city bike path.  T Walls has pledged to help with invasive removals, plantings and signage in this portion. The apartment buildings will be constructed in phases over the next few years. 

FSC Summer Happenings

Paddle the Creek

Upstream from Olbrich Gardens, turn left at the confluence and the West Branch will take you through woods, under many bridges, and you will  enjoy a surprisingly quiet paddle full of local wildlife. During our clean-up event on May 2 we saw a huge number of turtles and fish. Check out pictures on our Facebook page.


FSC members monitor the quality of the water and surrounding environment of Starkweather Creek as part of a larger effort sponsored by Rock River Coalition.  We are always interested in help on this project. Training is in the spring. Contact us at and we'll get you more information.

June 21: Summer Solstice 

FSC provided canoes for people to use for a short paddle on the creek and had an information booth including hands-on activities showing how we monitor creek health. FSC is proud to be a sponsor of the bonfire and festivities at this iconic Eastside event held at Olbrich Park.

July 25-26: Atwood Fest

Learn more about Starkweather Creek at our table.  In the meantime, join our Facebook page to keep updated on our events. 

August (TBA): Creek Tour

Bring your canoe or kayak and join us on a tour of the creek.  FSC board members will be there to point out the sights.  Check out our facebook page for the date. For more information, email us at 

October 15: Annual Meeting

Attend this event at Olbrich Gardens and learn more about us! We’ll provide snacks and an entertaining program.  Mark your calendar now!
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