July 31, 2013, Madison, WI–Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on designing a sustainable future for the Lake Wingra Watershed. The design charrette was hosted by Edgewood College’s Sustainability Leadership Graduate Program (click here for more information about the Sustainability Program) led by Edgewood Professor Jim Lorman. The students sought input and suggestions on their plans and the process stimulated much discussion around the topic of what makes a city livable and the need for cooperation to develop a sustainable future for Madison.
I’m happy to report that the afternoon was a success. It revealed that lots of creative thinking has been applied to watershed issues and that promising sustainability initiatives are emerging, not only at Edgewood, but also throughout the watershed and across the City of Madison. Participants included regular citizens, a Madison alder, students, a staff person from City Engineering, the lead engineer from a city engineering design firm, and several professors from UW-Madison.
Design Alternatives With a Green and Urban Emphasis
Students in the sustainability program presented design alternatives for key elements of the Lake Wingra Watershed: Vilas Park, Monroe Street (which faces reconstruction in 2014 or 2015) , and Wingra Park, among others. All of the designs featured elements of green infrastructure, bio-engineering, and porous pavement. Many of the student projects featured urban design refinements intended to create a more people friendly and accessible city by emphasizing walking and bicycling. The small-scale emphasis upon certain watershed features is intended to serve as a pilot project that will inform real-life projects in these areas while serving as an inspiration to the rest of the watershed and city.
Part of Other Watershed Planning Initiatives
Indeed, ideas that come from the Edgewood Sustainability project are intended to inform other watershed and city planning projects. These include the Friends of Lake Wingra (FoLW) collaborative planning effort with City of Madison Engineering Division to develop a Wingra Watershed Management Plan. This planning effort is based in part on the FoLW’s Wingra vision plan developed in 2009.
One of the stated purposes of the design workshop was to: “Integrate place-based design ideas (including specific ideas already generated by landscape architect and urban planning students and professionals) into watershed planning effort of the City of Madison, Strand Engineering, and Friends of Lake Wingra (see http://www.cityofmadison.com/engineering/stormwater/wingraplan.cfm)
Another purpose was to: ” Generate new ideas for land use, green infrastructure, policy and practices, etc., to move the Wingra Watershed toward sustainability visions of the City of Madison http://www.cityofmadison.com/sustainability/sustainPlan.cfm) and the Capital Region Sustainable Communities (http://www.capitalregionscrpg.org/).
It is a significant development that we have several planning efforts and documents all striving to describe a future vision for the Lake Wingra Watershed especially because the documents seem to have mutually supportive visions and goals. An interested citizen reader could begin with any one of the documents but I would recommend starting with the 2009 document: “Lake Wingra: a vision for the future”. This vision is earlier and focused on Lake Wingra and water quality and biodiversity issues. Then move on to the City of Madison Sustainability Plan, which is broader is geographic and topic area scope. Together, I think, both plans have the potential to move Madison toward a bright environmental, social, and cultural future.