The South district has several significant ecological areas. It contains Lake Wingra, borders Lake Monona, and is traversed by Wingra Creek. Most of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum lies within the district's borders. This natural area provides important habitat for local plant and animal populations, and efforts by Arboretum ecologists maintain the area so that native species in particular can thrive. The South district is also home to two of the City of Madison's conservation parks, Turville Point Park and Paunack Park. The objectives of conservation parks generally include restoration of native plant and animal communities and public education. Turville Point Park borders Lake Monona and offers nature trails that lead through prairie, marshland, and woodland habitats. Paunack Park is one of the last remaining marshes on Lake Monona. In addition to these parks, the Nine Springs E-way crosses the South district. The seven-mile-long E-way connects areas of wetlands, farmland, parkland, and open space and can function as an environmental corridor.
The South district accommodates a variety of land uses. There are residential developments throughout the district. In some areas, they are predominantly single-family, but multi-family developments are common as well. Parks and open space are available, at varying densities, throughout the area. Industrial and commercial properties are common along the southern edge of the Beltline, which crosses the South district. Some land along the southeast border of the district remains vacant.
A range of planning initiatives are underway in the South, with at least 11 planning projects started in the last three years. The South Madison Neighborhood Plan (2004) covers part of the district, and it addresses, among many other issues, parks and open space.
There are ten neighborhoods within the South district. Bay Creek is in the north central section, Broadway-Lakepoint and Waunona are located in the northeastern section, Bram's Addition, Burr Oaks, and Capitol View Heights are in the central part of the district, and Indian Springs occupies the south central part of the district. To the southeast are the neighborhoods of Highland Manor and Moorland-Rimrock, and Arbor Hills is located in the southwest. In addition to these neighborhoods, the district borders the Town of Madison, the Town of Blooming Grove, the City of Monona, and the City of Fitchburg.
The South district covers 5917 acres in the south and southeast part of Madison. On its north side, its boundaries include the edge of Lake Wingra (with the lake entirely contained within the district), Monona Bay, Lake Monona (both outside of the district), Upper Mud Lake (outside of the district), and several city boundaries. To the east, the district ends at a city boundary and the edge of Lake Waubesa. City boundaries form the district's southern edge of the district, and Monroe Street, Nakoma Road, and Seminole Highway form much of the district's western edge. The 2000 U.S. Census estimate of the population of the district is 14,161.
The South District has many unique ecological attributes worthy of protection and upkeep. The City of Madison and the neighborhoods in the South district have worked in coordination to develop ecological sustainability goals including: (1) Reducing stormwater runoff/increasing pervious coverage, (2) Sustaining and increasing the amount of parks and open space available to South Madison residents, and (3) Cleaning up Wingra Creek.
Goal #1 - Reducing Stormwater Runoff/Increasing Pervious Coverage
Because the South district contains Lake Wingra and land adjacent to Lake Monona, Monona Bay, and Wingra Creek, stormwater runoff is an issue of increasing concern. Homeowners who care for their lawns commonly use fertilizer containing phosphorous, which, when discharged into surface waters, can cause ecological damage. To address the problem, neighborhood groups are teaming up with other associations to develop runoff-reduction techniques. The Safe Lawns/Clean Lakes Initiative offers suggestions for citizens including: (1) Adopt a non-judgmental attitude when you talk with neighbors about this issue. (2) Educate yourself about the hazards of lawn chemicals. (3) Tolerate plant diversity in your yard and avoid chemical fertilizers, which harm beneficial organisms such as earthworms. (4) Use natural fertilizers such as compost, corn gluten meal, and meal from fish, kelp, or legumes to supply nitrogen. In addition to the problem of phosphorous runoff, large areas of impervious coverage (i.e. parking lots and streets) prevent water from infiltrating the soil. The planting of rain gardens is one technique recommended by residents in the Indian Springs Neighborhood for mitigating runoff and increasing pervious coverage.
Goal #2 - Sustain and increase the amount of parks and open space available to South Madison Residents
The South district is fortunate to have a relative abundance of park and open space compared to other parts of the City. A common goal among South Madison neighborhoods is to maintain this abundance. They have established the additional goal of increasing the accessibility of these parks by promoting the development of bike paths that run along the shoreline of Wingra Creek (Draft South Madison Plan 2004). The South Master Plan expresses the need for a "design concept for an interconnected system of parks, greenways, and trails to take advantage of the close proximity to the natural resources within the neighborhood and Dane County park system to the south of West Beltline Highway" (Draft South Master Plan 2004). Improvements have been suggested for Penn Park, Franklin Field, and Olin-Turville Park (Draft South Master Plan 2004). South Madison neighborhoods have also expressed the need to increase the aesthetics of current parks in the area by cleaning up debris, providing more trash receptacles, and maintaining the trees in the area.
Goal #3 - Cleanup Wingra Creek
In the past, residents of the South district saw Wingra Creek only as a channel for stormwater removal. Now, residents recognize the value of Wingra Creek as a natural resource (Wingra Creek Parkway Plan Master Plan 2003). South district neighborhoods and the City of Madison have a shared goal to clean up Wingra Creek and its shoreline and to improve its navigability. The draft of the South Madison Plan (2004) suggests that South Madison needs to "capitalize on the location and recreational opportunities of Wingra Creek to help promote the positive image and recreational assets." Cleaning up Wingra Creek will provide wildlife habitat, a recreational waterway, and overall watershed improvement. Neighborhood and City goals for this effort include community cleanup of debris, potential dredging of the river, shoreline improvements, and access to the creek for bike paths and pedestrian corridors (Wingra Creek Parkway Plan Master Plan 2003).
The relative abundance of natural areas, including conservation parks and the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, give the neighborhoods of the South district an advantage in comparison to other parts of Madison in terms of prospects for sustainability. These natural areas provide important habitat and help protect the ecological health of lakes and streams by providing natural infiltration of stormwater and reducing runoff. Neighborhood goals of reducing runoff further and connecting existing open spaces with bike trails and greenways are steps that would build upon the districts existing strengths.