North District Recommendations
see also: North District - North District Findings
Summary of Findings
Development in the North has created a district distinct for its open space and natural areas while, simultaneously, serving as an area with excessive impervious coverage and less than adequate transportation alternatives. These two facets of the North district seem in conflict, but they in fact mirror development trends in one of its neighbors, the East district. Like all of the districts along Madison's periphery, the North will have to develop strategies to maintain open space and reduce impervious coverage, such as clustering new developments or using porous paving for parking lots and sidewalks. Overall, though the North district does not meet standards for impervious coverage, residential sidewalks, and transit availability, it fares as well as, if not better than, the rest of the City in most ecological categories.
Madisonís North district is made up of nearly 40% open space. With over 3,600 acres of open space, there are 150 acres per 1,000 residents. Only the East and West districts outperform the North in total acres of open space. In terms of public open space, however, the North district exceeds all other districts in Madison. With 2,612 acres of public open space, there are 106 acres of public open space per 1,000 residents in the North district.
As its wealth of open spaces might suggest, the North district contains a number of community gardens. The North district has the distinction of being home to Troy Gardens, Madisonís largest community garden. Eventually, the Troy Garden site will also include an affordable housing development, located on an adjacent five acre parcel. While Troy Gardens serves a large population of North district residents, the other three community gardens are located at the periphery of the district, and are better situated to serve the needs of residents from other districts. Furthermore, according the standard of one site per 2,000 residents, the district has a deficit of 8 community garden sites. Consequently, the North district should seek a broader coverage of garden sites that are located to serve district residents.
The North is one of three districts in Madison to have conservation areas. Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park, with a total of 130 acres, provides an extensive natural area for the North district and is second in size only to the UW Arboretum. Cherokee Marsh also connects to an area of privately owned forest; together, this uninterrupted patch of natural area currently protects important habitat and adds aesthetic value to the North district. In addition to the Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park, the North has 211 acres of publicly owned natural areas.
The North district can address the threat of climate change and the urban heat island through additional street tree canopy. Street trees assist in cooling the city through evapotranspiration and by blocking the sun from road surfaces that trap heat. The North currently has street tree coverage for 78% of the district. This is the second lowest percentage of street trees among Madisonís districts. Areas that would benefit from additional tree canopy coverage are areas west of the Wisconsin and Southern railroad line along Troy Drive and Green Avenue. The commercial area and MATC campus just off Anderson Street could also benefit from additional street trees.
Other strategies for reaching Madisonís climate change goals include increasing connectivity between areas with sidewalks and promoting alternative forms of transportation. Currently, the Northís residential areas have 76% sidewalk coverage. Though sidewalks add to impervious coverage (see stormwater section), they promote pedestrian circulation. In addition to sidewalk connectivity, 93% of the North districtís census blocks are located within ľ mile of a transit stop. Only the Isthmus and Near West have higher service percentages. Together, sidewalk connectivity and transit service prompt residents to travel by foot or bus, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.
Several large industrial and commercial parks, coupled with the Dane County Regional Airport, add a significant amount of impervious coverage to Madison's North district. Impervious areas cover nearly 25% of the districtís total area, with parking lots making up 10% of the districtís area. Unfortunately, only 69 of the total 919 acres of parking lots are on public lands; likewise, only 120 of the total 2,248 acres of impervious area are publicly held. Therefore, reducing impervious coverage in the North district requires active participation from residents and community businesses. The districtís impervious coverage comes mainly from commercial parcels, which constitute 16% of the districtís area; by contrast, residential impervious coverage accounts for 3% of the districtís area. Only Madisonís downtown districts, the Isthmus and the Near West, exceed the Northís percentage of non-residential impervious coverage.
The North district is in critical need of reducing its overall imperviousness. Unfortunately, this may be a difficult task. With much of the districtís impervious coverage on private parcels, mostly in the form of large parking lots, the most likely course of action will be through city ordinances.
The North district has a fairly good record when it comes to ecological standards. There are some areas, however, where its performance can improve, thereby increasing the ecological sustainability of the district and of Madison. Overall, the North district performs well in open space-specifically public open space-and in natural areas. Conversely, in the category of impervious coverage, the North exceeds the maximum by a significant amount. The story that emerges from findings data is one of a district with strong competition between the natural and the built environment. Because both the built environment and the natural environment are essential to the City's health, we suggest strategies to help the North district achieve a balance between these two competing forces.
Recommendations by Goal
These recommendations are designed to help create an active dialogue among the North districtís diverse neighborhoods on environmental sustainability. Such a dialogue is critically important because only through community support will the difficult task of reducing the districtís ecological footprint be achieved. Furthermore, many of the North districtís attributes, such as its open space, community gardens, and Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park, are not just ecologically beneficial, they also support the Northís unique and vibrant social character. By involving community members in the process of improving its ecological sustainability, we hope that these recommendations also help strengthen the social fabric of the North district.