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Posted May 25, 2004
Wetland Prairie:
Mathias' Apartment Developer
Gets Extra Year on Permit

Engineer Mandy Bunch was successful May 24, 2004, in persuading the Fayetteville Planning Commission to extend for one year to May 27, 2005, the permit to begin construction of the Duncan Street Apartments on 2.46 acres of wetland prairie west of 1101 and 1121 South Duncan Ave. (Now a Fayetteville Nature Park named World Peace Wetland Prairie.)

The 36-unit complex was approved May 27, 2003, by the commission and received a permit from the U.S. Corps of Engineers for dredging and filling of the wetland in June 2003.

Listed as item LSD 03-13.00, the project would (have) involved moving hydric soil from portions of the wetland to be paved or built over to the south part of the acreage to create a storm garden to protect houses immediately downstream on a small arm of the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River from flooding in keeping with the Stormwater II federal and state regulations.

The corps permit required that the soil moved include the seed base of native wetland species to be used to vegetate the stormwater-retention area. Entry to the 60-space parking area would (have been) gained across the southeast portion of the property, which includes 0.46 acres of land that developer James Mathias dedicated to the city for a neighborhood park. That lot faces South Duncan Ave. where two rental houses stood until fall 2002.

After gaining approval of the project in 2003, James Mathias agreed to sell the acreage for a conservation area at a price reflecting his total investment in the land and planning process.

Because the 2-acre wetland prairie remnant retains almost all of the water that rains on it except in the most extreme storms, people in the neighborhood remain concerned that development could result in speedier stormwater runoff and increased flooding danger.

Two houses already are approached closely by floodwater from the same small arm (Soup Branch) of the Town Branch because water accumulates from the west side of S. Duncan between 11th and 15 streets and as far west as the Pinnacle Foods plant and the southeast slope of Rochier Hill. The flooding danger would be increased should any paving or building occur on the mostly wetland prairie east of the former Campbell Soup plant. (In early 2007, portions of the Pinnacle Prairie west of a new street being built between Aspen Ridge and the west end of 12th Street were ditched, increasing the flow past the south end of WPWP through the Soup Branch.)

During fall 2003 and early winter 2004 Fayetteville's Tree and Trail Task Force studied the area now known as World Peace Wetland Prairie and deemed it worthy of preservation in keeping with the mission of the committee. The task force voted to ask the mayor to negotiate with the developer to buy the land. However, the available funding was not quite equal to the developer's investment and the deal was not made until much later.

Members of the Town Branch Neighborhood Association continued to seek other sources of funding to purchase the land not only for flood protection but also to maintain the 2 western acres for song-bird nesting habitat and wildflowers.

The regional and city trail plans include an east-west trail a short distance north of the prairie wetland area and a development planned by Hank Broyles and Hal Forsythe on the former 11th Street Mobile-Home park would allow easy access to the 2-acre prairie for those who want to enjoy the birds and the flowers while walking through the area. However, that trail had not been built by March 2007 and the old east-west railroad right of way had been cut down and its timbered sides cleared, resulting in neighbors calling the site the TREELESS TRAIL.

Students from Fayetteville High School and the University of Arkansas often use the railroad track along the base of Rochier Hill to the west as a walking route between the campus area at Sixth Street and 15th Street. A north-south trail through the area would offer more than recreation. It would be practical and benefit many people who already believe Fayetteville is a walkable city.

With many new developments under way and planned in the Town Branch Watershed across all of southwest and south-central Fayetteville, the need to preserve the 2.46-acre (World Peace) wetland prairie is more obvious than ever.

James Mathias was extremely cooperative with the Town Branch Neighborhood Association and is appreciated. The opportunity to invest in the simplest, most effective method of flood control by buying this property and protecting its vegetation and absorbent soil should not be allowed to pass without the maximum effort.

The developers of the Aspen Ridge project to the north of WPWP, Hank Broyles and Hal Forsythe, have revised their plan twice to utilize storm gardens or naturally vegetated stormwater-detention ponds and in other ways to minimize environmental harm. That development of mostly low-lying land on both sides of the Town Branch poses a serious flooding threat, which they said they were trying to minimize. (As of March 2007, however, no storm gardens had been created and only muddy detention ponds were to be found on Aspen Ridge. The project was far from done. Not a single building was under construction by April 2007.)

Broyles' property includes an extensive slough on the east side of Town Branch that flooded and delayed stormwater runoff during the late April (2004) flood by slowing overflow from the stream. The portion of the Town Branch west of Hill Avenue between Sixth and 11th streets gets its water from the portion of the University of Arkansas surrounding Razorback Stadium and Bud Walton Arena and flows through Carlson Terrace Apartments before running beneath Sixth Street and the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad. Water from the southwestern slope of Markham Hill west of Razorback Road and portions of the main university and high school campuses also enters the stream from as far north as Cleveland Street and portions of Maple Street. (In 2004, the portion of the Town Branch that drains Markham Hill was renamed College Branch and in late 2006 the portion of the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River that drains part of the campus north of the Reynolds Razorback Stadium was renamed Mullins Creek. So much for historical accuracy.)

The next stream to the east drains portions of the main campus and the Maple Street and Dickson Street area from around North College Avenue, also draining the east side of Hill Avenue, and is now officially named Tanglewood Branch. It flows into newly named (2005) Spout Spring Branch and includes water from an unnamed stream that collects water from Archibald Yell and streets that cross it by passing through a ditch near the Walgreen Store on the way to Walker Park.

Spout Spring Branch drains the southwest slope of Mount Sequoyah and flows along the west side of Walker Park and enters the Town Branch southeast of the IGA and Salvation Army shelter. Taken together, these tributaries of the West Fork of the White River add to Beaver Lake a great deal of urban pollution from oily streets, lawn fertilizer and even some overflowing sewer lines and silt from several new developments such as a very large apartment complex being constructed along Beechwood Avenue between 15th and 18th streets near Baum Stadium on the western arm of the Town Branch.

Every square inch of green space that can be protected in the Beaver Lake watershed is important.


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Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

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