The North district's natural features make it an attractive area for families and businesses. The most notable of these are the district's many large parks, such as Warner Park and Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park. Located adjacent to the area's major commercial center, Warner Park is the site of "The Duck Pond," the Madison Mallards' baseball stadium, and a recently completed community center. Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park is one of Madison's important ecological areas. As a major wetland in the Yahara River watershed, it is a vital resource for Madison's lake system; these wetlands act as a natural filtration system for the watershed, reducing pollution and helping to maintain normal water levels.
In addition to park and residential land, the North district provides space for a mix of commercial, industrial, and even agricultural uses. The area's largest single land use is the Dane County Regional Airport. Situated between highways 51 and 113, the airport serves as a gateway to many of the nation's largest cities. Troy Gardens is important to the cultural identity of the North's communities. This community garden is an important source of food, recreation, and social interaction for many members in the nearby neighborhoods. The 26 acres that make up Troy Gardens are used as garden plots, an urban farm, a woodland, and a prairie restoration area. Eventually it will become the site of a new, affordable housing development.
Madison's North district is comprised of 25 neighborhoods and condominium associations. These include Sherman Village, Lakeview Hills, Nobel Park, Kennedy Heights, North Lake Mendota, Vera Court, Lerdhal Park, Mendota Hills, Berkley Oaks, Carpenter-Ridgeway, Norman Acres, Bluff Acres, Worthington Park, Brentwood Village, Sheridan Triangle, Cherokee Park, Whitetail Ridge, Triangle Park, Sherman, Truax, Westchester Gardens, Clarendon Hills, Maple Wood Condo Association, Cherokee Garden Condo Association, and East Bluff Homeowners Association. While many of these neighborhoods have individual plans, some do not. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the North district covers approximately 14.5 square miles and is home to 24,591 residents.
North District Planning Goals
The North district's neighborhoods are currently experiencing a variety of development pressures. Many community members have voiced in their neighborhood plans a desire to preserve the district's environmental corridors, natural areas, and open spaces. These include Warner Park, Cherokee Marsh, Starkweather Creek, Troy Gardens, and the natural areas south of the Dane County Regional Airport. A review of the neighborhood plans and a survey of residents revealed several recurring goals, including transportation improvements, stormwater management, and the protection of natural areas from development impacts.
Creating alternative transportation options is an important goal for many community members living in the North district. Neighborhood plans and a survey of neighborhood groups indicated an interest in expanding commuter options by building more off-street biking paths. By increasing biking and pedestrian connectivity throughout the city, commuters will enjoy better opportunities for non-vehicle travel. The neighborhood plans point specifically to the Chicago, Northwestern, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific railroad lines as potential areas for bike path development. One ongoing planning project seeks to identify areas around Starkweather Creek for bike path development as well.
Cherokee Marsh and Starkweather Creek are both important resources for stormwater management in the district. Plans indicate a desire to protect these resources from the effects of development. Proposed steps include stormwater retention basins and the restoration of several wetland areas. In addition, there is currently a City proposal to relocate part of Starkweather Creek situated west of the airport. Such a relocation effort would seek to reduce the amount of de-icing chemicals entering the creek.
Neighborhood organizations have also indicated a desire to reduce the amount of chemicals used for lawn care. Educational clinics promoting organic lawn care practices have been proposed.
Preserving Ecologically Significant Areas
As noted above, the North district is home to several unique environmental amenities such as Cherokee Marsh, Starkweather Creek, and Troy Gardens. Neighborhood plans have proposed a variety of strategies and goals intended to preserve these areas.
The Hanson Road Neighborhood Plan, for example, recommends that "no additional development occur west and north of CTH CV." The Cherokee Marsh Plan proposes extending this "no development area" to some of the parcels east of CTH CV. Prohibiting development in these areas is intended to reduce stormwater runoff into the marsh. Plans state that increased public ownership of these lands is the best strategy for long term protection. Another noteworthy goal included in the Carpenter-Hawthorne-Ridgeway-Sycamore-Truax Neighborhood Plan, which contains both North and East district neighborhoods, calls for the purchase of the Voit Property just south of Highway 30. According to the plan, "The acquisition of this property, and its eventual development into park and open space, would provide active and passive recreational opportunities. Most likely, the northern half of the site would be retained in its natural state, preserving the wetland habitat."
Troy Gardens is currently the largest community garden site in the City of Madison. It is used both for community farming and for educational programs. Future plans for Troy Gardens include restoration projects and an affordable housing development. The fact that the site is intended to be a mixed-use development, incorporating community gardens and affordable housing, make Troy Gardens a unique and highly-valued attribute of the North district.
With sites such as Cherokee Marsh and Troy Gardens, the North district has important environmental strengths to build upon. At the same time, however, new urban development may present difficult challenges such as increased runoff that threatens the health of lakes, streams, and wetlands; and greater traffic volumes that contribute to air pollution and climate change. By establishing environmental standards now and taking steps to meet those standards, the North can use its existing strengths to shape future development according to ecologically sustainable practice.