Curtis Pond in late summer

Curtis Pond (Photo: Strand Associates)

In 2020, Curtis Pond in west Curtis Prairie was rehabilitated as part of a significant stormwater infrastructure project.

Curtis Pond was built in 1970–71 to help manage stormwater flow into the Arboretum from the Beltline Highway and Arbor Hills neighborhood. This retention pond is designed to slow a high volume of water rushing in and allow sediment, excess nutrients, and other contaminants to settle in the pond. Cleaner water can then flow out of the pond and circulate through the Arboretum wetlands and to Lake Wingra. Sediment has built up over the years and decreased the pond’s ability to function as designed.

The rehabilitation project took place from late February through October. The project has three major phases: site preparation, rehabilitation and construction, and restoration.

To prepare the site, fences will be installed, a service lane was widened and reinforced, and some trees were removed. During rehabilitation and construction, a broken stormwater flume (concrete chute) was removed and the pond was dredged. There were also several related subprojects. In the final phase, project areas are being restored to native prairie and wetland.

Trail map detail showing project area

The project caused some disruption for visitors. Trails in west Curtis Prairie and the northeast corner of the Grady Tract were closed during the project. Many miles of trails throughout the rest of the Arboretum remained open. McCaffrey Drive between Seminole Highway and the Curtis Prairie parking lot was at times congested with truck traffic. The Curtis Prairie lot was closed and used as a staging area.

Truck traffic was directed with a flagging operation. Travel delays could occur on this portion of the road. Drivers, cyclists, and runners were asked to proceed with extra caution and ensure their visibility, especially to the truck drivers.

This necessary project has many essential benefits, including a functional stormwater pond, restoration of disturbed areas to native prairie, the long-term health of Curtis Prairie, and the flow of cleaner water to Lake Wingra.