Saturday, February 2, 2008

Aerial view of Red Oak Park area in NW Fayetteville, Arkansas


Red Oak Park is the vertical winding wooded area near the center of the aerial photos. Water flows north from the subdivisions south, east and west of the park and drops into the wooded area from two unrestricted pipes with no retention or detention pond.

Over recent decades, the powerful concentration of water that formerly soaked into the now flattened and paved over fields and pasture has washed out a few trees and created a deep channel through what used to be moist-soil, forested wetland with a gentle flow before development turned it into a raging torrent.

Completely dry for weeks on end, the new "stream" becomes deadly during heavy rain. Photos of the flash floods are unavailable because the water falls on the houses and yards and driveways and streets and runs through a far-too-efficient storm-sewer system and is gone before anyone can dare expose a camera to the elements. The evidence of the power of the water is in the debris in the streambed and caught in riparian-zone vegetation.

Although the thick understory vegetation in the south end of the park is good for nesting and roosting song birds, it is inhospitable to all but the hardiest of hikers and adventurous youngsters searching for sites to build "forts" or play Tarzan.

Elderly people, small children, the faint at heart and the physically handicapped people can't travel from one end to the other. There is a relatively large open area, however, with a smooth, handicapped-accessible paved biking, hiking or jogging trail circling it, at the southeast corner (upstream) and a small basketball court at the north end (downstream).

One proposal offered by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission would require removing many riparian-zone trees from the new stream's banks and constructing a meandering streambed with boulders and such brought in to create deep areas where water will be slowed slightly during flash floods. But the same volume of water would pass downstream and its velocity would be decreased very little.

An alternative proposal of creating a large storm garden in a portion of the open area upstream and smaller rain gardens on private property all over the watershed would keep a lot of water out of the park by allowing it to soak in naturally. This would keep most of the trees standing in the park and would bring diverse species of beautiful native wildflowers and butterflies and song birds to space now managed by the "grow and mow" philosopy.

A special Ward 4 meeting at the Ozarks Electric Coop at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11, 2008, is to discuss ways to stop the erosion, protect the timber and generally make the park safer and more usable for man and beast — especially for children and wildlife.

For information or to offer suggestions, call Jim Bemis at 479-444-9825 or Aubrey Shepherd at 479-444-6072.

More photos of the park will posting daily between Feb. 1 and Feb. 11. Please offer comments on this Web log and plan to attend the meeting.


Anonymous said...

When will you add more photos of Red Oak Park to your flickr site?

Anonymous said...

Also, I am impressed by the rain-garden guide linked on this site. I can see having one in my yard. Who do we talk to for local help?

Anonymous said...

The Washington County Extension Service office has published a brochure similar to the one Aubrey posted on his flickr site. I guess it is called University of Arkansas Extension Service? I think the UA switchboard could hook you up with it.