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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Caught in the ACT: Helping the Arb

<term break, the ACT Center will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with “Carls in the Community,” a weekend consisting of 25 service projects in honor of ACT’s 25 years.  Due to recent flooding that deeply impacted much of Carleton’s campus, Arbor will be leading a service project in the lower Arb during this weekend of service to begin restoring trails and damaged areas of the arboretum.

Leading this project is Nancy Braker, Director of Cowling Arboretum and head of Arbor.  When Braker first witnessed floodwaters sweeping through the lower Arb, she was taken-aback. 

“Logs, branches and lots of debris were being carried in the water,” said Braker.  “The river was flowing well out of its banks, completely swallowing Spring Creek and flowing perpendicular to it.  The whole scene was startling and very disorienting.”

The extent of damage to the lower Arb due to the rushing waters of the Cannon River was significant.  According to Braker, there was much physical damage done to facilities such as trails and bridges.  Many of the trails now have deep gullies in them from erosion caused by heavy rains, and trails closer to the river sustained greater erosion when submerged by the actual flow of the river.  The river trail has also accumulated sediments such as gravel and sand that were deposited by the river and must now be removed or smoothed. 

Additionally, both footbridges near the entrance to the Lower Arb were damaged due to rushing water.  The bridge that served as the main access point to the Lower Arb was dislodged and now sits in the middle of the creek.  However, Braker is hopeful that once the water recedes and the bank dries, the bridge will be replaced. 

As of now, the Arb staff has not officially closed the river trail, but it is recommended that visitors to the Arb stay out of the water since raw sewage was released into the river from sewage plants upstream.
Despite the damage done to the lower Arb, Braker believes that there were actually some beneficial changes. 

“Floodplain forests are adapted to flooding, and in fact some plant species require flooding in order to regenerate,” said Braker.  “In general, flooding is a benefit to the floodplain forest of the Arboretum.”
However, cleanup still needs to be accomplished in the lower Arb.  According to Braker, trails need to be re-graded by adding soil or gravel to places where erosion occurred, “water bars” need to be installed in some areas to slow down rainwater and help reduce trail erosion, the footbridge needs to be reinstalled, and garbage that made its way into the Arb during the flooding needs to be removed. 

Many of these steps to restoring the lower Arb will be part of the Arbor project designed for “Carls in the Community.”  Depending on how dry the trails are, volunteers will pick up litter, spread wood chips in areas, and help remove the broken bridge. 

Braker will lead this project on Saturday, October 17 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.  If you’re interested in helping rebuild the lower Arb, stay tuned for sign ups through the ACT Center!

-Leah Eby, on behalf of the ACT Center

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