Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Environmental effects of trail-building in Fayetteville, Arkansas, must take precedence over convenience

The spots on Skull Creek I photographed and posted online at the time of the trail celebration during the past year are especially bad. And the Walker Park trail built a couple of years ago and just about every stretch of trail in town has poster sites for stupid building practices and inappropriate site selection.
> The problem is simple. Developers who donate or owners who sell land to the city for trails must provide a wide enough swath to stay out of the riparian area.
> The tree canopy must protect the water from sunlight and the tree roots and other vegetation must prevent erosion and siltation. There is no simple rule such as staying 50 or 100 feet from the stream bank. In some places, no clearing or soil replacement with red dirt for the trail base should be allowed within 1,000 feet of the stream.
The city has been building trails without environmental protection being taken into account. We can't rip out what has been done but we can work to change policy and see that the planning includes the protection of the stream corridor.

The reason the land is available is that it is close to the streams and, in many cases, not only in the recognized flood plain but in the frequent overflow area of the stream. The tree-protection rules have been totally ignored in most areas.

Coody was desperately courting bicyclists and joggers and such to support him by creating fear that the trail-building would end without him. He NEVER acknowledged the environmental mistakes his trail builders made or talked about acquiring wider strips for the trails or requiring the staff to plan and build with the stream's health in mind.

Revision of the ordinances related to the trails may be necessary to improve the situation. Reportedly, the ordinance requires following stream corridors. The result is that the continuous green corridors along the streams is destroyed in the process. Meanwhile, the city has touted the green valley and the green-infrastructure project is trying to find places to protect.

Thanks to one member of the Environmental Concerns, a couple of years ago pushing and pushing, the council passed a resolution to protect riparian zones. ZERO changes have occurred in any category of city planning as a result of that. But at least a few times when speaking to the council I have been able to cite that resolution in my arguments.

I can show you a lot of spots to illustrate these problems in an hour of driving around the city and taking very short walks.

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