Friday, August 31, 2007

In Red Oak Park, Jim Bemis touches the roots of a huge flood-downed tree

This is one of several large trees already uprooted by stormwater flowing north through Red Oak Park. Can the trees be saved by storing stormwater upstream in the open portion of the park and in rain gardens on private property? Only if the city council and the neighbors study the problem carefully and realize that there is no cheap or easy way to fix the situation and the public and neighbors are willing to make the effort. PLEASE CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE IT.

Red Oak Park rocks wrapped in chainlink divert water, eroding streambank

PLEASE click on photo to enlarge it and see detail.
Dumping assorted debris into a stream, such as stones, seldom improves the situation. Even the Army Corps of Engineers has made mistakes in managing waterways. So why would a developer or landowner imagine that dumping rocks in a stream this way would do anything but make the situation worse?

Streams work best when they meander. Ditching streams and damming streams seldom is wise. In this case, the powerful flow created by intense development at the headwaters of the usually dry bed of this stream in Fayetteville's Red Oak Park has been driven off course by the rocks in the creek and has eroded the vegetation and topsoil and revealed the nasty red-dirt base of the lot next door. If the flow from the south continues to increase with further development, a privacy fence few feet away will become more debris washing downstream toward the Illinois River.

Water quality in the Illinois all the way to Lake Tenkiller is affected by such new developments in Northwest Arkansas. In fact, it is actually surprising that Oklahoma hasn't filed suit against county and city governments in Northwest Arkansas for failing to manage stormwater to prevent siltation. I guess that Arkansas' resistance to eliminating pollution from chicken litter, hog feed lots and slow effort to clean up sewage-plant effluent makes Oklahomans believe we just don't care about their formerly spectacular scenic river.

I doubt the two Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality inspectors assigned to the new office in Calypso Crossing in Farmington have had a chance to visit Red Oak Park. They have to provide state inspection of pollution sites in Washington, Madison, Carroll and Benton Counties. Both were on vacation when I visited the office Friday to find out what they had to say.

How much is high-quality water worth? How much is preventing such mistakes as have occurred upstream from Red Oak Park worth? We'll get an idea when Dave Evans' revised report goes to the city council.

One has to realize that those inspectors aren't out checking our streams and rivers and lakes or construction sites except when there is a complaint from a citizen (or maybe from a concerned non-citizen). They spend several times as much effort on paper work as on site inspections.

They have to put together a report on a complaint and send it to Little Rock headquarters and wait for someone there to decide whether the report ought to be investigated. If someone in LR says go inspect, then they'll schedule a site visit. And sometimes they'll actually find the source of the problem. But the reporting citizen must pursue the subject or it may just slip through the cracks.

What this means is that the cities and counties must pass ordinances and hire inspectors and create maps to show potential developers what the limits of appropriate development on the region's land actually is, preferably before the developers buy the property and start destroying it and offering some more pie-in-the-sky to make NWA Arkansas into Gotham City.

Two state inspectors couldn't keep up with the environmental errors occurring in even one of NW Arkansas small towns much less four counties.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Red Oak Park erosion problem requires upstream help

Red Oak Park's rapidly eroding creek is a tough problem.

But now is the time to make a plan.

Presentations on the park situation have been shown on the Government Channel 16 on Cox Cable in Fayetteville and presentations have been made to the council and to other groups about the problems.

Dave Evans of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is revising his plan for slowing the flow within the park. However, that process will require removing some magnificent mature trees. Some of those trees will be uprooted and washed downstream within a relatively short time, so removing the right ones and reconfiguring the stream bed to create meanders and wider places for eddies in the stream during storms may be the only solution.

On the other hand, let's think BIG. Let's use every bit of public right of way upstream from that park to create areas of absorbent soil, small dams to slow runoff and actual rain gardens.
Let's go further. Use the bully pulpit of the mayor and council to speed the process of educating the public on watershed issues and encourage and subsidize as best we can the creation of small raingardens on every lot upstream from the park.

We need to make our public-access channels MUST-VIEW outlets for our citizens. And we may need to put a combination of Dave's revised plan and a concomitant plan addressing the source of the problem: Routing all the upstream storm drains into various kinds of storm-water detention ponds, some rain gardens and maybe some just flat areas with absorbent soil

We must stop routing the bulk of the water into the wooded ravine that soon could be an open ditch if not addressed soon.

Detention ponds as found on most sites do not detain water long enough to let the storm end, much less allow the creek to get back into its banks before having more water added.

In private conversations I find that MOST people understand what should be done. And the ones who still think that ditching and draining the water as fast as possible is OK are intelligent enough to learn. And most people have to see only one example of the result of such draining to get the message.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Car flies off S. Duncan into Aspen Ridge (dry today) Bayou

Some Members of the Town Branch Neighborhood Association on Friday heard Ron Petrie, the city engineer of Fayetteville, Arkansas, explain that, because the current owner of the Aspen Ridge development site lives in Chicago and may not respond to a demand to complete the unfinished storm drain between the north end of South Duncan Avenue and Don Hoodenpyle's house, the only way to complete it is with TAXPAYERS' money and then bill the owner, Hal Forsyth. About 1:20 p.m. Tuesday, some of the same people heard a loud noise and went out to find a car spinning its wheels before escaping from the hole next to the storm drain. The driver said his wife bumped something and may have caused him to miss the turn to the east onto 11th Street. He also said he was going only 35. The speed limit on both Duncan and 11th is 25 and the driver had just passed a sign showing 10 mph for that curve.
Oh, well. They were able to drive away and their car already had damage, but they were angry and frightened. We'll see whether they call Fayettevilles' Transportation Department about fixing that hole. They might want to ask for some more large speed-limit signs and a double-yellow line to mark the lanes in the curve. Several times each day, cars approaching from south and east almost collide by taking the curve on the wrong side. I hope today won't see a fatality at the spot. I had hoped to post no BAD NEWS photos today and hope these will be the last.

Protecting agricultural land a key to sustainability

Informal conversations with residents of Northwest Arkansas cities and many comment periods at public city meetings make it clear that the majority of long-time residents do not want the cities to grow by filling in all the nice green spots. And a lot of rural people speaking at the county meetings make it clear they don't want urban sprawl on their neighbor's property.

The conclusion is obvious: Nobody wants population growth unless he believes he can profit from it. And the majority of current residents CANNOT profit from it and WOULD NOT participate in destroying what we already have here if it meant working one day and never having to work again.

However, the push to grow is real, so management of that fact is a necessity.

Susannah Patton wrote in Tuesday's Northwest Arkansas Times:

The Washington County Quorum Court will again take up the issue of zoning in the rural areas of the county.

The County Services Committee debated an ordinance Monday that would establish zoning in the remainder of unincorporated areas of the county. The ordinance will be discussed by the full Quorum Court at its next regular meeting on Sept. 13.
The ordinance, sponsored by Justice of the Peace David Daniel, amends the zoning passed last November that restricted development in the growth areas of cities to agricultural and single-family residential. The ordinance would zone all areas of the unincorporated county and restrict growth in those areas to agricultural.
Patton quoted County Judge Jerry Hunton: “ The full-time farmers just aren’t there anymore, ” he said. “ By protecting their rights, maybe we can encourage people to stay in farming. ”

If the city is to push "sustainability" and "infilling" at the same time, then city folk need to encourage the zoning of agricultural and timber land to prevent its being destroyed.

The grape festival and the apple festival illustrate the point. Tontitown and Lincoln are being FILLED IN with housing developments. Those rural towns are no longer surrounded by endless vineyards and orchards. The very SOIL on which agriculture depends is being buried or replaced by hard dirt with little or NO ORGANIC content. The shallow aquifers that made ground water easy to get and kept the land green whether cultivated or not are either polluted or actually destroyed by a landfill in the case of Tontitown and other sources of pollution all over the county.

Chicken litter must be controlled and managed better to prevent pollution and farmers must ALL be convinced that keeping the environment clean and green is in their best interest. Most farmers understand the importance of keeping soil healthy and water and air clean.

And the city folk ALL need to understand.
A company called CaseStack is coming to Fayetteville, according to the Northwest Arkansas Times' Aug. 24, 2007, edition. In that story by Adam Wallworth, Dan Sanker, a co-founder of the company based in Los Angeles, acknowledges that his first goal in coming to Fayetteville is to satisfy his stockholders.
Referring to a concept most of our ancestors understood long before the words conservation and environmental concern were popular, Sanker is reported to have said "he first became interested in sustainability when Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott spoke to the
retailing excellence board
about two years ago."
"Sanker said he left that meeting a bit confused, but the more he thought it the more he felt it was a 'huge concept.'"
EUREKA, Sanker was saved by one apparently awesome sermon. Maybe Scott's words should open every meeting of the planning and governing bodies in Northwest Arkansas until every public official comes to the altar and every politician's constituents understand.

Sanker's company expects somehow to reduce the cost of shipping goods by efficiency in packing. But the really important thing is to reduce the number of things that require shipping. Everyone should have the opportunity to grow his own food, even if it is only in small pots on the stoop of an apartment. No tomato or pepper or numerous other vegetables should be shipped into Northwest Arkansas in the summer. Our photo of the apartment-yard garden of Dwight Wells in south Fayetteville shows the potential of limited garden sites to be beautiful and help feed the neighbors as well.
True, not everyone has a "green thumb" or wants to get his hands dirty growing his vegetables. But keeping our rich soil wherever it is found and keeping water in rain gardens (featuring flowers and vegetables) on every dwelling site keeps the opportunity viable. And, should times get tougher, people could actually remain and survive in Northwest Arkansas by simply learning how to use that soil and water for practical purposes.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Greg House wiser than Broyles/Forsyth? Pie in the sky

Saturday's Northwest Arkansas Times offered a story titled "Developer puts Dickson Street project on hold."

"The developers behind
St. Charles Plaza
are going to wait a while longer before starting construction of the luxury condos behind Collier’s Drug Store," reporter Adam Wallworth asserts in the lead paragraph.

Greg House of Houses Inc. "said the development team is waiting to pre-sell enough of the units before starting construction, which could be next year," Wallworth writes.

"As far as the project goes, House said the development team is not in any hurry. He said that they own the property and it takes care of itself," Wallworth writes.
WISDOM: Don't tear down revenue-producing property for a pipe dream until you wake and understand where you stand. Aspen Ridge's developers started
wrecking dwellings
on their property before getting official approval for a project. The Aspen Ridge team wanted to make the low-income housing, which varied from very cheap and in very poor condition to moderately priced and in excellent condition, disappear before the words "obtainable housing" or "affordable housing" could start cropping up. They arranged to get the City Council to take a bus tour of the land AFTER the residents were moved out of the mobile homes and debris remained on the ground, suggesting the area was always like that. This supported their argument that they were "REVITALIZING south Fayetteville," a code phrase for "get the poor people out of town." Next, they took out the trees and ran the homeless people and the wildlife out of the woods. But by then they had the planned zoning district approved.

House is not under pressure to cut off his nose to spite his face, as the Aspen Ridge people appeared to be.

"House said that, because the project doesn’t have to go through large-scale development, all they have to do is pull the building permits. The designs are done and they’re marketing the property, he said, so they can afford to wait a while," Wallworth wrote.

LACK OF WISDOM: The city doesn't require large-scale development approval for parcels of less than 1 acre, even if they are six stories high.

"The plans are for a six-story, 80,000-square-foot building that will replace the four houses that occupy the property along St. Charles Avenue and Watson Street. Secured, covered parking, a clubhouse with bar, workout area and a swimming pool are included in the plans for the project, which, at under an acre, does not have to go through largescale development," Wallworth writes.

LACK OF WISDOM: The city should have been regulating the destruction of existing buildings for years. A high percentage of the buildings torn down were serving the community quite well.

CASE IN POINT: Destruction of the Restaurant on the Corner and The Grill. The parking lot between the two was known to many as "The center of the world." It seemed that vehicles large and small hauling the rich and powerful pulled in daily, while University professors (the intellectual heart of the city), the hitch-hiking youngsters from all three coasts and a few from the Canadian-border area, walked in. Every other social level of local society also was represented there.

That was a memorable, unforgettable spot for people growing up in the sixties through the 90s. How many long-time residents of Fayetteville actually can name a business now on that previously magical acre?

LACK OF WISDOM: Buying land and paying to have a project planned with BORROWED money and expecting to presell unbuilt expensive dwellings to people who have as yet not even appeared in Northwest Arkansas. Or maybe the condo and townhouse builders just expect to keep taking one another's buyers away. That fantasy is what must have motivated people to start up so many unneeded banks in Northwest Arkansas. Most of those now-shrinking outfits were here only to get hold of mortgages and sell them out of state. They could not have even dreamed of sustaining themselves in this bloated market. Surely, our distinguished colleges of business are turning out MBAs with better judgment than has been shown in NWA in recent decades.

A great many people are wishing the Aspen Ridge folk had considered some obvious reasons not to remove everything including incredibly rich and rare topsoil from the nearly 30-acre site and waited until the market and money were right to do ANYTHING before creating a

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Debris on 11th St. bridge after early morning rain

PLEASE click on the photo to enlarge it and view detail.
One person on the tour of Aspen Ridge on Friday seemed to doubt that the area floods. Here is the evidence after the fact Saturday morning. Debris pushed onto the bridge from north to south (right to left) remains after the rain had been over for an hour or so and the photographer finally showed up. Sometime before sunrise, a photo could have been made of the water flowing over the bridge downstream from Aspen Ridge.

Don Hoodenpyle, who owns the property to the right, which floods before the water gets high enough to flow OVER the bridge, explained how the addition of a large sewer line UNDER the bridge has decreased the amount of flow necessary to cause water to flow over the bridge. That new sewer was built to accommodate the so-called phase II of Aspen Ridge.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Public meeting at Aspen Ridge Townhome site with Buckeye butterfly Junonia coenia

The meeting of developers, the city engineer of Fayetteville, Arkansas, other city officials and members of the Town Branch Neighborhood Association planned for 8:30 a.m. Friday August 24, 2007, is now officially a public meeting.
The gathering set for the parking lot of the Town Creek Builders or Aspen Ridge Townhomes sales lot on the southwest corner of Sixth Street and South Hill Avenue became a public meeting subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act on Thursday night when officials announced that at least two council members — Adella Gray and Brenda Thiel — are expected to attend.

Gray and Thiel, who represent Ward I of the City of Fayetteville, were at Thursday's council meeting. Normally held on Tuesday, this week's council meeting was postponed to allow officials to attend the funeral for four members of the Hoover family who died in an accident last week while vacationing in Mexico.

All interested people, including representatives of all types of news media, are encouraged to attend this morning's meeting.

The developers have asked for a one-year extension of their permit to begin construction on the site. Such an extension would mean they would not have to actually begin work or correct any existing problems until June 29, 2008.

Members of the neighborhood association have asked that the council set conditions on that permit renewal and delay passing an amended city ordinance allowing for that permit extension until several problems on the site have been corrected. Please see previous posts for lists of conditions.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Aspen Ridge on Council agenda Thursday August 23

The council meeting has been postponed until 6 p.m. Thursday August 23, 2007, to allow people to attend the Hoover family funeral.

Everyone who uses South Duncan Avenue, 11th Street and Hill Avenue between 6th Street and 15th Street is invited to share comments and concerns about the Aspen Ridge Townhome project by e-mailing or logging onto
and entering a comment or by e-mailing or calling the council members:
council members.

Information collected will be offered to the Fayetteville City Council when it again considers renewing the Aspen Ridge permit to resume building whenever the developers choose, as long as it begins at least a few minutes before midnight June 29, 2008. What do they need to do and/or promise before getting approval? Post a big bond? When work stopped in 2006, numerous problems existed and most remain or have worsened.

For details of some of the neighbor's concerns listed below and others, please visit
and Aspen Ridge set of photos and Town Branch Watershed set.

Some of the concerns about which neighbors seek assurance:

1 When construction resumes, the developers need to SUPERVISE TRUCKS entering and leaving the site to control speed and see that loads ARE COVERED and tires ARE NOT CARRYING mud onto newly paved Duncan Avenue and 11th Street and to-be-extended 12th Street, as well as Hill Avenue and 6th Street. Police have limited power to enforce the covering of loads because state law is weak. City needs strong ordinance.

2 Before approval, developers must meet or exceed STORMWATER regulations in such areas as
Repairing silt fences
Completing stormwater entrances
Planting NATIVE grass, shrubs and trees to reduce erosion
Making RAINGARDENS of most of the retention/detention ponds
Increasing holding CAPACITY of retention/detention ponds
Preventing any increase in stormwater flow east of the extension of Brooks Avenue and 12th Street into the so-called Soup Branch that flows along the southern broundary of World Peace Wetland Prairie and the northern edge of private property on 12th Street and under S. Duncan Ave. to the Town Branch behind the Stanley Sullins on on Duncan.

3 Increase size of protected area around trees currently at risk. Allow dead trees to remain at least until construction is complete to provide habitat for species that utilize them.

4 Check elevations all over the site and correct them to eliminate building above the level of adjacent property and creating flooding threat to lower and downstream property.

5 Restore the appropriate absorbent soil (preferably the original soil) to the areas of the small area dedicated as a city park immediately north of World Peace Wetland prairie. Water should be encouraged to soak into that land as it formerly did and its elevation be no higher or lower than that of the north end of World Peace Wetland Prairie.

6 Recreate te TURNAROUND at the east west end of 12th Street that residents, mail carriers, utility workers, visitors, and emergency personnel used for decades.

7 Fill the ditch created last year along the west side of the extension of Brooks Avenue to prevent water from the northwest side of the Pinnacle Prairie from being routed to the storm drains but allow it to soak in or be routed directly across the street to the eastern Pinnacle Prairie acreage abutting World Peace Wetland Prairie. This land is not suitable for curb and gutter. The deep dig for the street already may have interrupted the underground flow eastward. The trail or sidewalk along Brooks should allow for ground and surface water to move eastward to the nature park.
The northernmost storm drain should be routing flow only from it the street itself, while water from the west should somehow pass through the street to the eastside prairie. Water from the factory portion of Pinnacle Foods' property must be directed to the storm drain but not encouraged to flow any faster than it did before the street dig was created. The native grass and other vegetation is critical to Pinnacle Foods' effort to release only high-quality stormwater from its property.
The Pinnacle Prairie, considered in relation to World Peace Wetland Prairie, is extremely important to the health of populations of birds and other native species.

8 Make Don Hoodenpyle's driveway passable in all weather from S. Duncan Ave. and 11th Street.

9 Build a sound barrier along the railroad on the western portion (Phase 2 in the original plan) and plant trees on both sides of the barrier to reduce erosion and further muffle sound from the railroad.

10 Build the trail across Phase I from the railroad trestle to Hill Avenue. Clear out the railroad tunnel from the trestle to the unpaved portion of Indian Trail on the west side of the railroad. Plant native hardwood trees and native grass and shrubs along both sides of the trail. The railroad should be responsible for removing the dumped creosote rail ties from the entry because their presence in the riparian zone of the Town Branch is a federal EPA violation as well as state ADEQ violation and a pollution threat to the Beaver Lake watershed.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Don Grimes, former Fayetteville city manager

Don Grimes, a longtime city manager, points out a special spot on the Fayetteville downtown square.

Fayetteville Farmers' Market

Jordan and Miller Williams visited the Farmers' Market in Fayetteville on Saturday and left before the rain came. Jordan said that Miller will be reading at George's Majestic Lounge on Sunday evening.

Swallowtail butterfly on thistle at World Peace Wetland Prairie

Clearwing moth nectars at thistle on World Peace Wetland Prairie

At 9:30 a.m. it appears that only two of us are at the usual monthly workday at World Peace Wetland Prairie. It is a perfect day, so we'll be spending time out there. We knew several said they couldn't make it, but being quiet makes the area especially nice.

Actually, the term "workday" may be a put off for some potential visitors to Fayetteville's 2.46-acre nature park at 1121 S. Duncan Ave. Working isn't required on workdays. This is a great day to walk slowly and watch the butterflies, skipper moths, clear-wing moths and other pollinators at work. Friday, the birds and butterflies were active around 10 a.m. and that may be the approximate starting time for a "feeding period" such as fishermen try to notice on the lakes and hunters note during their seasons. The creatures were relatively still and quiet at 8 a.m.

So come on out and just walk through and enjoy. If we do get rain, there will be a burst of new blooms over the coming few days and a return visit after the rain would give a person an idea of the potential of such places.

UPDDATE: Rain started about 11 a.m. and things are already perking up.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Rob Sharp and Tom Bourdeaux earned a Beauty Mark Award from the Fayetteville Council of Neighborhoods. Sharp accepted the award for the architects' work to bring more beauty to south Fayetteville.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A mourning dove searches for supper on Aspen Ridge.

If you don't care about the human beings displaced for the Aspen Ridge project, how about the wild things? This mourning dove is walking on Aspen Ridge fill dirt (mostly gravel and yellow slimey mud when wet) checking for edible items. The greatest loss is the rich topsoil that was hauled away in hundreds of dump truck loads. Even if the same soil were brought back and put in the same spot it would not function the same because the thick layer of almost impervious soil would still prevent water from soaking through to the aquifer and roots of plants from reaching to where groundwater formerly was nearly always available. Such land is basically unusable for the real needs of human beings and other living things forever. More evaluation of soil on potential development sites needs to be done and a person added to the staff whose job would be seeing that only minimal disturbance of healthy, absorbent soil would occur. The mindset of people planning projects needs to be adjusted to recognize that replacing tillable soil with red dirt or any dirt with less organic matter and more hard mineral content is unnecessary and has predictable, almost irreversible BAD long-term consequences for the watershed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Aspen Ridge needs your attention. Please share concerns.

People who use South Duncan Avenue, 11th Street and Hill Avenue between 6th Street and 15th Street, whether they live in the Town Branch Neighborhood or simply pass through the area, are invited to share comments and concerns about the Aspen Ridge Townhome project by e-mailing or logging onto
and entering a comment.

Information collected will be offered to the Fayetteville City Council when that body again considers renewing the Aspen Ridge permit to resume building whenever the developers choose, as long as it begins at least a few minutes before midnight at the end of June 2008. What do they need to do and/or promise before getting approval? Post a big bond?
For details of some of the neighbor's concerns, please visit