Thursday, April 05, 2007

Boneyard Creek Gains Respect

Note: I am still researching and writing EA each week, but other people will be voicing the spots until April 17, 2007. I'm running for a seat on the Champaign Park District board, so my voice can't be on the radio without opening up the same amount of time for other candidates.

Dee Breeding from WILL-AM 580 narrates this week's installment.


Listen to the commentary
Real Audio : MP3 download

Most people hardly notice the Boneyard Creek, which arises in north Champaign, flows through the U of I campus, and joins the Saline Branch of the Salt Fork River in Urbana.

When you slow down to look, though, you see that, small as it is, the Boneyard is a magnet for wildlife. At this time of year, the trees along Second Street and in Scott Park are coming to life with migrating songbirds. The creek itself provides a stopover for mallards and the occasional wood duck, and a belted kingfisher cruises the corridor. In a deeper pool on the U of I campus you may see bullfrogs, or even an occasional snapping turtle. And this is to say nothing of the twenty-two species of fish that inhabit the creek.

To the credit of all involved, local decision makers have begun to treat the Boneyard as an asset, too.

In January the Champaign City Council approved a plan to create a naturalized flood control basin between downtown and Scott Park. With the right attention to design, such a basin could provide a small but significant bit of habitat for wildlife in the heart of the city, and give residents a place to unwind with access to the creek.

This redeveloped stream corridor in Champaign will complement the redeveloped creek on the U of I campus. There, planners took into account environmental and aesthetic values as they reshaped the stream, incorporating features that give it a natural appearance and make it hospitable to aquatic life.

The retaining walls on campus are faced with block and natural stone rather than smooth concrete or corrugated metal. The channel is marked by some of the variation characteristic of free-flowing streams—deeper pools, shallow riffles, and even a few meanders. And all of this is set off with landscaping that uses native plants to further the impression of a natural area. Most welcome of all, a person need not risk life or limb to get near the creek, thanks to grassy slopes that lead right to the water’s edge.

The City of Urbana is just beginning a landscape and urban design study focusing on the portion of the Boneyard that flows through downtown. Planners there envision beautifying the creek between Main Street and University Avenue, and integrating it with surrounding development. The possibilities for this project include naturalized landscaping, sitting areas, and pedestrian connections that would showcase the creek rather than hide it.

The Boneyard Creek really is a natural asset for our community, and we have much to gain by treating it well.

You can participate in the renewal of the Boneyard Creek and celebrate Earth Day by turning out for the Boneyard Creek Community Day on Saturday, April 21. Participants at this event will clean up litter, mark storm drains to alert people not to dump waste there, and help naturalize stream banks. Boneyard Creek Community Day activities begin with registration at 9:00 a.m. at Scott Park [map] in Champaign and continue until noon, when lunch will be provided for volunteers.

For more information you can contact Prairie Rivers Network by phone at 344-2371, or check in on the web at