East District

see also: East District Findings - East District Recommendations


Located along the east periphery of the City of Madison, the East district combines older residential neighborhoods, large commercial areas, and industrial corridors with newer residential developments and agricultural land. With a population of 28,604, the East district spans approximately 21 square miles and is home to 21 neighborhoods. Bounded by Lake Monona to the southeast and East Washington Avenue to the northwest, the district has historically been dominated by industry and agriculture, but has since branched into more residential and commercial development. The district is now largely composed of low density residential neighborhoods and agriculture land that currently faces a variety of development pressures. Commercial areas are concentrated along East Washington Avenue and Stoughton Road, while industry is mainly found on the south side of the East district near US Highway 12/18.

In addition to its commercial, industrial, and residential areas, the East district has long had a wealth of environmental amenities that are not only important ecologically, but that also foster a sense of community among area residents. Web sites and newsletters for neighborhood associations express a strong sense of ownership of the parks and other natural areas in the East district. One such feature around which residents have organized is Starkweather Creek, an urban stream with two main branches. Degradation of the creek caused by increased runoff has encouraged the development of Friends of Starkweather Creek, an organization that works to raise public awareness and appreciation of the creek. Another environmental amenity which prompts active community involvement is Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Located off Atwood Avenue, the park serves not only as an urban open space, but also as home to plant collections from across North America as well as tropical areas. The East district has several conservation parks, as well; these parks include Edna Taylor Conservation Park and Heistand Wood Conservation Park, and Heritage Prairie Conservation Park. The shore of Lake Monona is another important ecological feature in the East district.

District Planning Goals

Future plans for Madison's growth include expansion into the periphery, as covered in the City's Peripheral Area Development Plan. In the East district, the City has developed neighborhood plans such as the Sprecher Neighborhood Development Plan, the Cottage Grove Development Plan, and the Felland Neighborhood Development Plan. The plans' proposed land uses suggest that these areas will mainly be residential areas, with a small proportion of area serving commercial and institutional functions. Some neighborhoods, with support from the City, have also formulated their own neighborhood plans. In a few instances, several neighborhoods have collaborated to form one combined neighborhood development plan, such as the Carpenter-Hawthorne-Ridgeway-Sycamore-Truax Development Plan or the East Towne-Burke Heights Neighborhood Development Plan.

While the east side continues to experience increasing development pressure around several environmental corridors, many community members have voiced a strong desire to preserve these environmental amenities. Although typically not their main focus, many neighborhood development plans address environmental issues. The Ridgewood Neighborhood Plan, for instance, surveyed residents and found civic uses (community center, library, police and fire service, and education) and green spaces (parks, open spaces, trails, and recreational areas) to be top priorities. After reviewing the various neighborhood development plans in the East district, several goals remained consistent throughout the plans. Specific development goals outlined practices that would preserve ecologically significant areas as the east side continues to develop. By comparing our survey responses and the neighborhood plans, it seems the most important natural or environmental areas for the community are Starkweather Creek, Edna Taylor Conservation Park, Door Creek, and the areas buffering Lake Monona. They prioritize preserving natural areas and open space and achieving improved stormwater management.

Preserving Natural Environmental Corridors

Preserving natural environmental corridors is an important goal for the community members living in the East district. Some neighborhood organizations include goals to preserve areas around the Rattman Neighborhood, Starkweather Creek, and Door Creek for aesthetic and environmental purposes. The Carpenter-Hawthorne-Ridgeway-Syacamore-Truax Neighborhood Plan (2001), which involves several north and east side neighborhoods, calls for the acquisition of the Voit property south of Highway 30 for long term preservation as a natural open space. As stated in the plan, "...[p]art of the parcel is officially mapped as wetlands, including several ponds. The east branch of Starkweather Creek runs through the northwestern part of the property. 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."

The East Towne-Burke Heights Neighborhood Plan proposes the neighborhood increase the number of urban parks and open space by 15 percent, which could potentially consist of new wetlands. This plan also proposes the preservation of an environmental corridor along Starkweather Creek as a buffer to protect the existing creek and adjoining wetlands. The Ridgewood Neighborhood Plan also addresses the issue of "...using natural open space areas as a framework for enhancing other land uses."

The local significance of environmental areas is also highlighted in the Sprecher Neighborhood Development Plan (1998), which states:

"[t]he Door Creek valley and the wooded drumlins that form its edges are among the most important and prominent open space features within the Sprecher neighborhood planning area. In addition to Door Creek, the lowland valley contains numerous wetlands---including several which remain close to their natural state. Other former wetland areas have been altered over the years, most typically by draining them for agricultural uses. The hillside woods include several nice stands of mature trees. Together, the slopes and lowlands of the Door Creek corridor represent an exceptional opportunity to develop a significant natural and recreational amenity at the very edge of the urbanized area. The Door Creek open space corridor is identified in the Peripheral Area Development Plan as an area that should be considered for permanent open space preservation."

Stormwater Management

Starkweather Creek is an important environmental amenity that terminates at Lake Monona, near Olbrich Gardens. Starkweather Creek is a natural spring-fed creek that stretches across many neighborhoods. Currently, the creek is being used by the city for stormwater management purposes. The surrounding neighborhoods all direct stormwater runoff during seasonal rains and spring thaws into the creek. Starkweather Creek is the only environmental resource that more that one neighborhood organization on the east and north side address through preservation goals.

Stormwater management goals are addressed at length in the Felland Neighborhood Development Plan. The neighborhood sets high standards for future development in the area and was even the subject of a stormwater management study intended to develop stormwater policies and objectives for future development. The study also backs a neighborhood development goal of creating a lake using existing hydric soils. This future urbanized watershed would be used as a way to mitigate problems related to stormwater runoff as impervious coverage increases with new development.

Preserving Open Space

A final noteworthy goal of preserving open space for improved stormwater infiltration and water quality improvement is addressed in the Cottage Grove Neighborhood Development Plan (1992). The plans states:

"The park and open space areas include an area park, greenways and drainage ways, and several stormwater retention areas. An area park to serve all of the residents within the neighborhood is proposed primarily on the Hovde Realty property. The total acreage for the area park will approximate 14 acres, including the adjacent 3.8 Severson Park in the Rambling Acres Subdivision. Greenways for channeling stormwater runoff are proposed in several locations. The greenways will be open channels and grass-lined and will have both water quality and enhanced infiltration features. Stormwater retention areas are also designated in several locations and will be designed to reduce peak runoff rates and provide groundwater recharge."


A survey of district residents, along with a review of neighborhood plans, shows that community members of the East district are already concerned and deeply involved in maintaining the district's environmental amenities. Through neighborhood plans, community organizations, and active individual participation in the planning process, the district strives to improve its ecological sustainability. Residents, in particular, show a strong interest in protecting open space, mitigating the harmful effects of runoff, and preserving Lake Monona, Starkweather Creek, and Door Creek for the enjoyment of future populations.

East District Findings - East District Recommendations