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Group plans to alleviate drainage issues at Black River Falls community garden

The Spalding Road Community Garden has had flooding issues for several years, but lately the area has had prolonged periods of flooding that hasn't allowed the garden to grow like shown in this picture from 2010.

After several flooding events left the Black River Falls high school and community gardens at the corner of Rye Bluff Road and Spaulding Road useless this last year, city officials and users of the site are beginning to discuss different options to remedy the situation.

The Black River Falls agriculture department has been using the site since 2009 to teach about 80 students a year about growing crops, while the Spaulding Road Community Garden began in 2009 to provide space for those living in the city to have a garden. The gardens together occupy about one acre of land.

“Two years ago is really when we began to notice it is not draining like it used to. We’d get big rain events and we’d flood and it would drain out, but it hasn’t been draining out. This last year it really came to a head,” Black River Falls High School agriculture teacher Brad Markhardt said adding that this year he was only able to plant a crop of sweet corn, which was flooded right away.

The Spaulding Road Community Garden was also useless this year as no one was able to plant anything in the 42 available plots, even after $1,000 of fill was purchased to raise the beds.

Parks and Recreation Director Steve Peterson farmed that piece of land in the 60s with his dad and uncle, “The land back then when it was wet was like it looks now and when it was dry was beautiful because it holds water for a long time.”

With a lot of development in the valley including new soccer fields and homes, the land now holds less water than it used to.

“You have all of this drainage coming through all the way down to the community center and coming underneath Hwy. 54 into the drainage ditch there,” community garden member Ron Gasoske said. “The grade is overgrown with weeds and debris and everything else. Five or six years ago Spalding Road washed out because of all the water.”

To handle the water coming off the valley, a different plan was originally put in place to deal with all of the water.

“We were set up originally at the Lunda Park across the road from the gardens to have a retention area with cattails and different things – for a wetland area,” Peterson said.

Despite this plan, the site was eventually mowed down and cleaned up because it was an eyesore for the park, leaving no good place for the water to go.

The problems were compounded this last year because of the amount of rain dumped on the area.

“It has been a strange couple of years. I had groundwater coming into the sub-pump area underneath the pool ground as well as into the filter room all year up until now that it is frozen. It has been an exceptional year,” Peterson said adding that he was only able to mow the water runs once this year.

The water has also caused erosion issues on the edge of Rye Bluff Road and the driveway going to the community garden.

While Gasoske and Markhardt would initially like to see the ditch dug out in the area to help facilitate drainage, the final project could include a retention pond and building up the ground in and around the two gardens to reduce the chance of flooding.

“I think this isn’t a short-term project. This is going to be two or three years down the road. A lot of thought is going to go into it,” Gasoske said.

According to city administrator Brad Chown, since there is a creek that runs through the area, the project could include a wetland delineation plan that could cost $15,000-20,000.

The plan would also require coordination with the town of Adams and the DNR.

“It is going to have to be a multi-organizational effort to come up with a plan in there, and unfortunately while that is going through, the two groups sitting in the swamp are not getting a lot of luck,” Peterson said.

Peterson, Gasoske and Markhardt are currently heading a committee to oversee this project.

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Jackson County Chronicle editor

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