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Thread: Freeing a creek from a culvert - advice needed

  1. #1

    Freeing a creek from a culvert - advice needed

    I want to liberate a stream.

    I am a junior planner in a small (80,000) mountain community in the heart of BC. There is a small creek running through the downtown of my city that few people know anything about. The creek starts a few kilometres away, tumbling merrily down from the mountains through a sharp ravine, passing underneath the Trans-Canada Highway, then slowly wandering behind the grounds of the hospital. Bit by bit the stream is channelized as it moves around the government buildings until it runs along a2 3-meter wide ditch dividing two parking lots from one another. Finally, it passes from the hospital lands into the downtown area proper, disappearing into a concrete-lined culvert and vanishing from view. It then takes a diagonal turn and cuts across the city, surfacing periodically here and there in backyards and alleys in a 2-meter wide concrete ditch, vanishing again into concrete culverts only to reappear again for a 1 or 2 metre stretch. Finally, the creek burbles out a few metres short of the main river and fans out in a delta at the riverside park, free at last. The creek is covered for 85% of its journey through downtown, with hotels, houses and 1-storey strip malls perched overtop, along with roads, alleys and parking lots. It starts its journey at the top of 6th street and finishes its journey at the foot of 8th street, traversing at a near diagonal across the city grid.

    My idea is this.

    The gradient from the hospital grounds to the river is low, less than 1 degree at any one time. I cannot dig out the stream and give it a proper channel without destroying numerous businesses and homes (the diagonal angle through the city as related to the street grid). However, 8th street is a two-lane affair with extremely generous parking lanes on either side. In total, the street ROW is 20m. Fortuitously for my machinations, very few houses or businesses front on 8th street, and traffic is very light. Therefore, I propose to dig up the entirety of 8th street to a depth of 5 meters or more, from sidewalk to sidewalk, redirect the stream up 8th street, swing around in a dog-leg at the top of 8th, and reconnect with the original bed behind the hospital. I’ve checked the grades and hill profile, and think it can be done. My vision is this – a natural green corridor running from the riverbank through the heart of downtown, connecting the riverfront with the regional parks up in the hills – with a bike and ped walkway running alongside, providing a gently graded connection from the river path system to the rest of the city. Short, well-designed bridges would connect the perpendicular roads across the creek, and the pedestrian walkway would cross the streets at-grade. There would be places along the pathway to sit and watch the creek, some parts would be allowed to form small ponds and wetlands, all would be designed as a destination for local residents, and as a link to the greater community.

    This all exists in my head right now. I discussed my idea with the group of engineers I work with – they all did the same thing – stared at me incredulously, said “Good god, you can’t do that. How much would it cost?” and retreated nervously mumbling about restricting traffic flow and causing vehicle mobility mayhem. “Besides, who would go there?” one asked in parting. Young and idealistic I may be, but the first question, I think, might be a good one.

    I am slowly fleshing this beast out into a proposal and want to start wandering around the city getting community groups, neighbourhood organizations, business associations and the like on side. For reasons that make no sense to me (well, they do – but I fundamentally disagree with the reasoning), I am going to face a hell of an uphill battle – with the city engineers, with businesses, with residents, with car drivers. So I need ammunition! I need to get more of an idea of what might be involved, how it could look, who should I talk to, how to fund the construction and long-term maintenance, what it might mean long-term for development potential and so on, which means getting together examples of similar projects and ideas from the minds of my intelligent and able colleagues.

    If you have any thoughts, advice or recommendations, I’d love to hear it.

    Cheers!

    --

    David Wise
    Planner - Transportation & Land Development

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I applaude you on the idea, but I would agree that it may not be feasible. The cost would be very high - I am reading into your comments that some private properties would need to be acquired, along with all of the construction costs. I am wondering if there is a compelling reason for it. Is this part of an economic improvement program for the downtown? Are you trying to restore a fishery? I think you might have engineering issues as well. Digging the street to a depth of 5 meters means a 1:2 side slope. That is steep. Too steep to have much more than a straight channel, and too steep to permit the paths you want to install. Maybe there are other ways you can look at enhancing the stream in those places where it is exposed, or find new places to daylight it.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Contact the people at the Milwaukee Metroplitian Sewerage Distirct. They are in charge of stormwater in our region as well as sanitation. They recently won awards for returning miles of channelized (concrete lined) creeks and streams in urban areas to their natural state. They may even have some ideas on funding sources.

    Here's a link to the project

  4. #4
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    The City of Marquette Michigan is "Daylighting" the weststone creek which runs into Lake Superior. You may want to contact them as well...
    "The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism." - George Washington

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Jen's avatar
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    Micheal, didn't the city of Kalamazoo "daylight" a creek by the Rose Street market place? Arcadia creek I think? Yes it is thankyou google! Here is a link

  6. #6

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    While your situation sounds challenging, I would suggest you contact Berkeley, California. They have a couple of local nonprofits pushing for just this kind of project.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jen
    Micheal, didn't the city of Kalamazoo "daylight" a creek by the Rose Street market place? Arcadia creek I think? Yes it is thankyou google! Here is a link
    You beat me to it Jen, yup it is the Arcadia Creek, and now they are building the Arcadia Creek Festival Site on the banks of the Creek. The following is a image of the Festival site, it is schedualed for completion in early summer of 2004.




    They did the same thing in Battle Creek, Michigan. Here is a link with more info on this project.

    http://www.tellusnews.com/ahr/report_chapter14.html

  8. #8

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    Looks a little bit like Vacaville's Creekwalk (although our creek was always open).

    www.creekwalk.org

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Here is a good link for you, fortuitously sent to me by one of our engineers today. It doesn't talk about restoring a creek so much as it deals with alternative methods of stormwater management that may be applicable to your situation.

    http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/util/Nat...ms/default.htm
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #10

    Excellent replies, thank you

    Thanks very much for your excellent input so far - you've given me some ideas already that encourage me to do some reconsideration - I particularly found the Seattle Sea Street example to be potentially very relevant - in terms of doing the project in stages and perhaps opening up a segment at a time to demonstrate its feasibility, and working on a small public square incorporating the daylighting of another small segment of the stream. I've been considering using some of the alleys as stream beds in parts of the neighbourhood, and reactivating some of that poorly-used public space. I was particularly interested to note that the Seattle examples cost approximately 15 - 20% less than a standard curb-and-gutter roadway, and I can imagine that land values on either side would increase by a statistically significant amount.

    Thanks again for your input and keep them coming!

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    You should check out Watershed Academy Web -- U.S. EPA's online training in watershed management. It is free and it has modules on planning, analysis, effective community outreach and much more:
    http://www.epa.gov/watertrain/

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