Ex-stream Makeover: Greenfield's Wildcat Creek

In the headwaters of the Root River, stable banks and habitat diversity are back in Kulwicki Park.
It was uplifting and inspiring to experience the restoration makeover of this urban stream on a warm summer day. It was just a few short years ago when regional partners banded together to bring water quality, habitat and a sense of place back to an oasis in Kulwicki Park. Here is that story...

The pressures on our streams in southeastern Wisconsin are extreme. Wildcat Creek was a degraded tributary flowing into the Root River, which eventually flows into Lake Michigan. The Root River is federally listed as “Impaired” for chronic aquatic toxicity, low dissolved oxygen, and degraded biological community, due to total suspended solids (sediment), chlorides (road salt),and phosphorus. But wait, there's more.

Increased rainfall trends and subsequent flooding put more pressure on the stream channel and banks. Severe bank erosion adds excess sediment to the river, which also contains more phosphorus. Phosphorus enhances algae growth, which absorbs necessary oxygen for aquatic species throughout the food chain. Here is the stretch of Wildcat Creek in Kulwicki Park before the restoration occurred:
Streams that lack diverse native buffers are also less stable, increase runoff pollutants, and offer little habitat for native species. The EPA/DNR-approved Nine Key Element Root River Watershed Restoration Plan (2014) recommends improvements to Wildcat Creek. Streams need land makeovers to fight these impairments. The City of Greenfield accepted the challenge, and here are the results:
In 2016, the City of Greenfield took on the challenge of restoring Wildcat Creek. Phase I and II began upstream, while Phase III involved the stabilization and restoration of 350 feet of stream banks and the buffer along the creek here in Kulwicki Park. The solution included integrated bank treatment, bio-stabilization with vegetated soil lifts, invasive species elimination, sediment removal, berm creation, and conversion of low-quality turf to diverse native grasses and flowers. Stabilizing stream banks and increasing creek buffer widths lowers sediment and phosphorus loading, reduces flood events, and provides a richer habitat for pollinators and aquatic species. Below is what the construction looked like:
DURING CONSTRUCTION (photo: Ruekert & Mielke, Inc.)
Thanks to the engineering of Ruekert-Mielke and the construction and maintenance of Applied Ecological Services, the restoration of Wildcat Creek brings many environmental, economic, and wellness benefits, which makes for a healthier Root River and Lake Michigan.
These restoration efforts and its corresponding benefits would never had been possible without the generosity and determination of our partners: Ruekert-Mielke, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Sweet Water Freshwater, Fund for Lake Michigan, and Milwaukee County Parks. Above all, thank you to the City of Greenfield for making this clean water story come true.

Know a small creek like Wildcat Creek that needs an ex-stream makeover? Let us know.

Executive Director
The Root-Pike Basin Watersheds
Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network
4116 12th St.
Kenosha, WI 53144