Curtis Pond in late summer

Curtis Pond (Photo: Strand Associates)

In 2020, Curtis Pond in west Curtis Prairie will be 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 is scheduled to begin in late February. The project has three major phases: site preparation, rehabilitation and construction, and restoration.

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

Trail map detail showing project area

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

Truck traffic will be directed with a flagging operation. Travel delays may occur on this portion of the road. Drivers, cyclists, and runners should 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.