The Bark River Restoration began as a volunteer effort by the Friends of the Bark River community group, who were seeking to clean up the river and make this downtown area more accessible and inviting to users. However, volunteer work could only take it so far. As the hopes and goals expanded, the City became involved and grew the project scope exponentially.
The City recognized eroding Bark River banks and eroding banks within an adjacent park pond; there was concern that critical parts of the banks might structurally fail. Yet, in light of these concerns the City also recognized opportunity to transform this area into a safer, more inviting and central downtown area for walkers, bikers, canoers, kayakers and fishermen.
As the project got underway, there were three main components set to be addressed: river bank restoration, park development and burying an exposed fresh water feed pipe crossing the river.
Before these efforts could take place, the City needed to overcome a number of challenges. As Delafield's city engineer, SEH needed to provide a cohesive, practical project plan that factored in many different visions. Second, the City needed to understand their funding options because their budget was minimal. Lastly, as this project was highly visible and involved a number of transformative efforts to the Bark River, the City needed a partner who could lead educational public engagement efforts while providing the needed care to the river, surrounding banks and land area.
The project was a collaborative effort comprising input from City staff, the Friends of the Bark River, local land owners along Bark River, the Park and Recreation Commission, the Common Council and SEH. The SEH team's relationship and history with the City, experience in river bank restoration and park development in sensitive areas, as well as their strategic work in uncovering funding opportunities played an integral role in the project coming to fruition.
To address perhaps the biggest challenge, funding, SEH worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to uncover options and opportunities. Given the project’s prominence within the City and potential to nurture the river and environment, the team was able to secure a Wisconsin DNR Stewardship fund; this fund matching grant supported both land acquisition and improvements to the downtown area.
With the support of funding and a strategic scope in place, the City and project team went to work completing three main elements:
Park development. The project team undertook park improvements and park development along the Bark River – including the creation of a central plaza/gathering place, integrating a new trail system, creating an ADA-accessible canoe launch, and adding picnic areas with benches, swings and direct access to the river.
River bank restoration. The project team provided approximately 0.25 miles of streambank restoration using stone, encompassing the entirety of the Bark River’s flow through downtown Delafield. The team also provided structurally sound restoration to the neighboring park pond. Thousands of native plants (additional detail below) were added to the river banks; strategic and careful tree clearing also took place to provide more natural light for the native plants and ensure they thrived.
Burying exposed pipe. This effort involved safely and securely burying an exposed river crossing pipe that feeds fresh water into a fish hatchery pond. Burying the pipe created newfound canoe and kayaking access throughout the river, while maintaining the clean water being carried to the fish hatchery. The project team used the Wisconsin DNR-approved, open cut trench method to bury the pipe – which involved excavating down to beneath the river after briefly damming the flow, burying the pipe and backfilling with the appropriate soil.
The project team’s public engagement efforts showcased the improvements being made, helping City residents and stakeholders become aware of the safe, free recreational opportunities available to them. This area of Bark River has since become a widely used and enjoyed central park area, featuring structurally sound river and pond banks that will stand the test of time. In fact, to support aesthetics but ultimately nurture the environment for years to come, more than 10,000 plants were hand placed throughout the project area.
Bark River Restoration
City of Delafield, Wisconsin
City of Delafield