Madison's Memorial Creek enters the city from the north and exits to the southeast. Along the way, it passes through parks, residential neighborhoods and commercial areas. The stone walls are among the city's most attractive features.
The walls were funded and constructed by the Works Progress Administration, a Depression-era program intended to put unemployed Americans back to work on civic improvements. Construction started in 1936 north of Fifth Street and gradually worked its way south. The part of the creek between Fifth Street and Egan Avenue, previously a wider, swampier area, was sometimes known as Memorial Lake.
Both granite and quartzite stones were used. The quartzite was taken from the Dakota Central Railroad bed that crossed Brant Lake near Chester, and the granite came from Dell Rapids.
Any 84-year-old structure needs maintenance, and Memorial Creek has had plenty, including a major reconstruction in 1976 and a number of bridge replacements in the last 25 years. A bridge over Memorial Creek at E. Center Street is scheduled to be replaced later this year.
But the creek still needs more maintenance and repair, and we'd like to see more investment.
Some of the stone walls were damaged during last September's flood, and vegetation (including small trees) has taken over parts of the creekbed. Litter is strewn in most blocks of the creek through the city.
The investment we're suggesting is both in time and materials. Cleaning up litter and debris requires person-hours, and in some cases, the use of equipment. The stone walls require a specialized contractor who knows the engineering required to build and maintain them.
On a wish list, we'd like to see walking/bicycling paths added next to the creek in flood buyout lots. Extending the stone walls both north of N.E. Fifth Street and south of E. Center would enhance those neighborhoods and improve flood control.
Memorial Creek is a jewel of the city, and we'd like to see its maintenance as a top priority.
-- Jon M. Hunter