Friday, May 22, 2015

Save the Ash During Tenney Park Reconstruction and Rehabilitation

Have you noticed that the lagoon at Tenney Park is getting bigger every year?  Perhaps you see the muskrats and beavers are acquiring Tenney Park real estate?  Or the viewing areas for the soccer field are shrinking?  

Not for long – City of Madison Parks and Engineering Divisions will be arriving soon after July 4th, to renovate and reclaim the waterfront.  This will be major construction project, which will last until the winter, and is aimed at reconstructing the bike path (widening from 8 to 10 feet) along E. Johnson Street, adding lighting, and stabilizing the majority of shoreline along the lagoon.  That is the up side.  

As a component of this plan, 200 trees will be removed right away, the vast majority of which will be ash trees.  That is the down side.  As a positive, these extractions will mean that there will be no more disturbances from Forestry teams over the next 2 – 5 years, who will be felling trees all over the Isthmus, ahead of the tide of Emerald Ash Borer beetles.  

In other words, this project means that our neighborhood has to act now to conserve our most beautiful and valuable ash trees.  

The TLNA has created an ash adoption plan – please help us!  You may have noticed that 12 of the biggest, best and most beautiful ash have been extracted from the Park already, and they now stand as natural pillars on the ground floor of the new Tri-North Galaxy complex growing by the side of East Washington St.  The income from this purchase has provided a fund that will help treat a dozen trees at Tenney Park, and at least keep them standing when the chainsaws begin.  

Please help save some more!  Go to for information and a donation link.  On average, $200 buys an ash treatment, and therefore adopts a tree.  There are 21 trees currently tied up with yellow bows in the Park.  All have passed the health inspection, and all are lovely arboreal members of our community, shading the playground, fishermen, tennis courts and lake edge.    Look for the posted signs in the Park.  If you can donate, you can help to keep these trees alive.  Depending on the total fund available as of July 4th, the final tree adoption selections will be made, and the rest will have to go.

Enjoy the Park whilst you can!   Sections will open and close as parts of the project complete, but expect heavy machinery there for the whole summer and Fall.  During the shoreline reconstruction, the lagoon will be drained (don’t you want to know what is on the bottom of Tenney Lagoon?).  The aesthetic appeal may bottom out entirely as the mud and chainsaws take over.

But wait - the projections suggest the renovated Park will be lovely.  Sally Swenson, the landscape architect, has a thoughtful plan that includes sustainable shorelines and lagoon access from cut limestone steps.  Following shoreline stabilization, tree removal, and bike path reconstruction, the Park will be recolonized with plants during 2016, emphasizing native Wisconsin prairie forbs, sedges and grasses, and adding plantings to shrub beds that shout out to historical plans from John Nolen and O.C. Simonds.  An important piece of this plan will be to replant trees to replace the lost canopy of all those beautiful ash trees.  There will be broken hearts for sure, but a brighter future, starting with the new season next year.

Pictures of the project goals and a list of the City Parks and Engineering personnel are listed here – together with all their contact information, and the useful powerpoint slides and data sets that Sally showed us at the Tenney community meeting some weeks back.  The Contractor in charge is the City Construction Engineer,  John Fahrney (, and the whole plan is overseen by Charles Romines, Parks Operation Manager.