Friends of Starkweather Creek

Trickle Newsletter Fall: 2017

Boat Storage became a reality in a partnership between the Friends of Starkweather Creek, City of Madison Parks Department, and Goodman Community Center.  

A total of 283 people joined us on nature outings from September 2016 to September 2017. This included a large group of about 75 people joining us on Earth Day for a clean up on the creek with the Goodman Center. Getting more people out on the creek, enjoying nature and experiencing this urban gem is a big part of what we do. Please join us for our monthly outings on the creek!
We are grateful that the City of Madison Parks Department worked with us to get this boat storage in place. We are also grateful for our partnership with the Goodman Center and Madison FUN who have been the organizing forces behind many of the tours. Thank you one and all!

Annual Membership Meeting

On October 17th, we held our annual meeting at the Goodman Community Center. We talked about this year’s outings, outreach, and stewardship activities. Here is a link to our annual activities slideshow and our paddling adventures video

We also held our board election. Welcome to our new board member, Kris Long and thanks to our current board members: Lance Green, Dea Larsen Converse, Sean Gere, Doug Johnson, Carl Landsness, Paul Noeldner, Dave Pulkowski, Theresa Vander Woude, and Dane Wudel.

Winter Solstice

Come join us and the Schenk-Atwood- Starkweather-Yahara Neighborhood on Thursday, December 21st for our annual Winter Solstice Celebration! Enjoy the bonfire as winter begins. Visit our Facebook page to get more details at Starkweather Facebook Page

Monitoring on the Creek

By Lance Green, Co-Chair
Although you will have an amazing natural experience paddling along seeing turtles and shorebirds, Starkweather Creek and its watershed have been highly urbanized. The majority of wetlands have been drained or filled for development. The creek has been extensively channelized and water quality in the main stem and the East and West Branches is very poor. For many decades, we treated the creek as a dump for trash, sewage and industrial wastes. 
Since the Clean Water Act of 1990, we’ve made much progress to improve water quality. However, Starkweather remains on the Wisconsin DNR Impaired Water List for several factors including acute and chronic aquatic toxicity due to chloride and metals, degraded habitat due to sediment, and low dissolved oxygen.
Again this year trained volunteers have monitored the creek at several locations, measuring conditions like temperature, flow, dissolved oxygen, and clarity. They also collect macro-invertebrate organisms whose identity determines a “Biotic Index” reflecting the creek’s general health.
Results continue to show the creek is often low in oxygen, a key factor limiting plant and animal survival. Clarity is usually good, except after storms like this those this spring, which also left the creek higher than normal through the summer, increasing soil erosion.  The Biotic Index has hovered between poor to medium quality.


Toxicity Testing

By Lance Green, Co-Chair

We were fortunate this year when Mike Miller, DNR Stream Ecologist, sampled the sediment in seven sites along the creek. Bioassay testing revealed the sediment was only mildly toxic to invertebrates in some locations, and we are hoping to perform more sampling to identify possible toxic substances. The study methods were not designed to provide information on what contaminants are present, potential sources, or management options. We hope to continue testing to determine sources.
Study cooperators included the State Laboratory of Hygiene, Friends of Starkweather Creek, and the City of Madison Engineering Department.
You can view more about Starkweather Creek health at this DNR site:
DNR Water Quality Testing

Rain Garden Planting!

On May 31st, a group of dedicated volunteers, including Friends of Starkweather Creek, put in a rain garden at Elvehjem Elementary School in Madison.
The event was organized by Crystal Campbell from Dane County Land and Water Resources Department and Phil Gaebler, a city of Madison Stormwater Engineer. Elvehjem 4th graders planted the remaining plants.  Rain garden benefits include pollution prevention, water conservation, and providing habitat.

Madison FUN Outings

By Deborah Crabtree, Board Member
It's been a year of adventures around Starkweather Creek! In partnership with Madison FUN Friends of Urban Nature, Madison Parks, Madison Audubon Society, and the Goodman Community Center, Friends of Starkweather Creek has hosted free monthly bird and nature outings in and around the Starkweather Creek area for the past year. Nature outings varied from leisurely strolls on neighborhood hiking trails and peaceful paddles up the creek to sledding outings in the winter complete with a cup of hot cocoa to warm up.
A total of 283 people participated in the events this year. There was a large group outing on April 22nd group for the Earth Day FSC/Goodman clean up. That was a special day with a lot of special people interacting with the creek in a positive way.
We love sharing this urban gem with all of you! Please join us on future nature outings, which occur the third Saturday of every month from 10-11:30. Check out Friends of Starkweather Creek's Facebook page for outing details.
If you’d like to volunteer to help with the outings, please contact Deborah Crabtree at or Paul Noeldner at (608) 698-0104.

Our nature outings from September 2016-November 2017:
September 19th, 2016: Bird and Nature Walk
October 15th, 2016: Canoe Tour
November 19th, 2016: Bike Outing
December 17th, 2016: Sledding Outing
January 21st, 2017: Winter Nature Hike
February 18th, 2017: Tree and Plant Outing
March 18th, 2017: World Water Week Outing
April 15th, 2017: Canoe Outing
May 20th, 2017: Nature Art Outing
June 17th, 2017: Bike Outing
July 15th, 2017: Canoe Outing
August 19th, 2017: Nature Art Outing
September 16th, 2017: Bird and Nature Walk
October 21st, 2017: Canoe Tour
November18th, 2017: Bird Walk at Olbrich Park

Take Care of the Creek this Winter


If you use salt this winter, make sure you don’t over apply! Believe it or not, just a coffee mug of salt is enough to treat an entire 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares.

The WI Salt Wise Partnership is urging homeowners, municipalities, and private contractors to make a commitment to reduce salt use this winter. Using excess salt doesn't make your sidewalks safer — it harms plants and animals, pollutes our water, damages buildings and corrodes vehicles, roads and bridges. Once you put salt down, it doesn’t go away. Instead, it travels into our lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands, putting our aquatic life at risk and endangering our freshwater resources. Salt also alters the composition of soil, slows plant growth and weakens the concrete, brick and stone that make up our homes, garages, bridges, and roads.
According to a recent report from Public Health Madison Dane County, nearly 30,000 tons of salt were spread on Madison and Dane Co. roads during the winter of 2014-15, and that doesn't include what was spread on parking lots, sidewalks and driveways. That is enough to pollute over 23 billion gallons of water.
There is a way to cut down on salt use and keep our roads, parking lots and driveways safe: Use only what you need — and that’s less than you might think! Believe it or not, just a coffee mug of salt is enough to treat an entire 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares. The scatter pattern should look like the image on the below. (Refers to ScatterPattern.png or StatterPattern2.jpg image) Other things you can do to reduce salt and protect water include:
  • Shovel: Clear walkways and other areas before the snow turns to ice. The more snow you remove manually, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it will be.
  • Switch: When pavement temps drop below 15, salt won’t work. Switch to sand for traction or a different ice melter that works in lower temperatures.
  • Hire a salt wise applicator: If you hire a contractor to remove snow and ice, let them know you are WI Salt Wise! Some local applicators have been trained in winter maintenance practices that reduce environmental impacts. Ask potential contractors if they’ve been trained and use practices that reduce salt use such as pretreating with brine or pre-wetting salt.
  • Look for proper salt use at the stores & businesses you visit. If they’re using the right amount of salt, thank them! If not, let them know about WI Salt Wise.
  • Love the lines: The stripes on the roadway before a storm are anti-icing, they show that your professional maintenance crew is concerned about your safety and is saving money, time and protecting our environment! 
  • Be Salt Wise all year! The salt you put in your water softener ends up in local freshwater streams. New, efficient softeners use less than one bag per month. If you’re using more – have a professional tune yours up – or, replace it with a high-efficiency model.
  • Do your part to help out our community and local water resources. Be Wisconsin Salt Wise! Find out more at Wisconsin Salt Wise Partnership

How we help the creek

A bit about what we do
  • Advocate for the creek with city and county officials, 
  • Lead free canoe/bike/walking tours throughout the year,
  • Co-sponsor a summer and a winter solstice celebration, 
  • Work with Goodman Center and Madison FUN to get people out on the creek, 
  • Volunteer as water quality monitors for the DNR, 
  • Provide a place for community members to share their concerns and plan projects around the creek, 
  • Publish a semi-annual newsletter. 
  • Work with experts on projects to promote a healthy creek ecosystem.

Feel free to join us at our monthly board meetings and learn more about us and our activities. All are welcome. We meet at the Goodman Community Center, 7pm, 3rd Tuesday of each month. You can learn more about us through our Facebook page 

or become a member at our webpage

Thank you for your support

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting our work to revitalize Starkweather Creek by participating in our canoe tours and creek cleanups, by lending your expertise, and, especially, with your membership.  If you have not yet had a chance, please take a moment now at to renew your membership and consider making a donation to help us continue our work. 
Please make checks out to Friends of Starkweather Creek and mail to Friends of Starkweather Creek, Post Office Box 8442, Madison, WI 53708-8442 or contribute via our webpage at
Copyright © 2017 Friends of Starkweather Creek, All rights reserved.

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Madison, WI  53708-8442

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Friends of Starkweather Creek · PO Box 8442 · Madison, WI 53708-8442 · USA

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