Toussaint Dardenne Linear Park & Trail System Proposal
St. Charles, Missouri studies a plan to connect streams, watersheds, and communities with trails.
The Greenway Network received a three-year EPA grant to study the Dardenne Creek watershed. From this study, we envisioned this plan for a linear park that connected all municipalities within the watershed and provided storm water and flash flooding control for the residents of the county. The Greenway Network, Inc. (GN) and St. Charles County Land Trust made a presentation to the Metropolitan Parks and Recreation Board on June 4th and to municipality representatives on June 26th. The following details the content of these informational meetings regarding the proposed Toussaint Dardenne Linear Park & Trails System, a citizen-initiated conceptual plan. At the meetings, Gerry Boehm represented the GN; Dennis Evans represented the St. Charles County Land Trust. Jamie Salvo, a citizen of the county also assisted in making the presentations.
Toussaint Dardenne, settled with his wife along a clearwater stream in 1756, a decade before Pierre Laclede established St. Louis. This settlement was located where the Salt River Road intersects the stream, which was soon named the River Dardenne, as we pronounce it today. The Dardenne and the adjoining valley and woodlands provided fresh water and abundant wildlife needed for the area to flourish. Soon this area became a key site to ship salt, animal hides, and many other products to St. Louis. The history books are riddled with many stories of some of the great men who also resided in this area, Point De Sable, who is the founder of Chicago, and the world famous Daniel Boone.
As the years passed, the communities were intersected with many roads of commerce and trading along the Dardenne was abandoned. For 150 years the Dardenne, and the ecosystems it created, had flourished. By the 1900s, the assault on the creek began. In 1917 a portion of the creek was channelized. By 1930 the residents within the watershed began to notice a reduction of water and wildlife. In 1940 the U.S. government bought out many of the schools, churches and villages in the area to construct the TNT plant. The lack of environmental controls at the time resulted in large-scale contamination of the watershed. After the war was won, the plant was shut down and the MO Department of Conservation took control. Within two years the creek began to take on life once again.
Presently, the Dardenne Creek runs twenty-seven miles through the middle of St. Charles County. It is a mid-sized watershed, totaling an area of 165 square miles. It is the backbone of the county and the natural ambience that the creek offers as it winds through each community provides a green buffer from the heavy development, which is ever expanding. The county has tremendous projections for major growth with regards to the Dardenne watershed.
Now, a watershed is the total land area that drains directly or indirectly into a particular stream or river. Everybody lives in a watershed. Taking the best possible care of this precious resource is our responsibility. The Dardenne Watershed can be divided into three separate areas: headwaters (which is primarily rural), the middle reaches which is a heavily-developed residential area, and the Mississippi floodplain. This area is agricultural and currently has proposals for commercial development.
Environmental Benefits/Corridor Protection
The most critical component of the watershed is the riparian zone, which includes the stream bank and surrounding areas that border the stream channel. Like all waterways, the Dardenne's riparian is not defined by a specific width. In some areas it spreads out hundreds of feet and in some areas it is a narrow strip along the creek. It is within this riparian zone that the many complex biological interactions take place. The riparian acts in concert with the surrounding ecosystems. Changes within the watershed will impact the physical, biological and chemical processes occurring within this corridor. Stream systems normally function within natural ranges of flow, sediment movement, temperature, and other variables. When development and riparian degradation go beyond the tolerable ranges of these variables, the delicate balance may be lost.
Shading of the riparian is a major control of water temperature, while maintaining the natural vegetation within the zone is essential to provide bank stability. A stable riparian will help modulate stream flow and remove & filter run-off. It will help store water, and provides a unique habitat for both aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals. Providing an adequate vegetated buffer zone along streams is fundamental for safe watershed management. The broader this vegetated corridor is, the greater the time it takes for rainwater to reach the creek. This is called lag time, which slows down the potential flash flooding.
Recreational & Educational Benefits
Not only does this Linear Park provide for riparian protection, wildlife diversity preservation, and clean water throughout St. Charles, it has the potential to provide the residents of St. Charles County with many economic and recreational opportunities. Developing this concept would maximize the regional park concept by providing hundreds of miles of public access and links with some of the finest natural areas in the state. Given proper access, the creek can be used by residents for numerous recreational activities such as hiking, walking, biking, and nature exploring. The development of eco parks along the creek could serve as outdoor classrooms for schools and colleges.
The Dardenne Watershed is experiencing some of the most rapid urban development in the state, as was shown on this map. The citizens of St. Charles County recognize a certain urgency to protect and preserve the Dardenne Creek Watershed. Recent resident surveys have indicated interest in preservation and protection of the water quality of these streams. Their interest in parks, natural areas, and trails has reached an all time high. This is why the time is right to present the Dardenne Creek Linear Park and Trails concept. Where the Dardenne watershed was once used as a waterway for commerce and trade in the past, it can now be used as an interlocking network of open space and trails that connect the people to the waters as before while preserving the diversity of wildlife in St. Charles County.
The most interesting facet of this plan is that it connects the Dardenne watershed with the Confluence Greenway Project, providing over 6,500 acres of linear park and trails passing through the most heavily developed area of St. Charles County. It would also link the Golden Eagle Ferry and into the Illinois trail systems. Being the backbone of the county, it would allow for satellite branches to connect with all of the major municipalities within the county.
A linear park passing through the area could help improve the landscape of homes and businesses, and could enhance commercial potential while serving as a floodway to protect homes and businesses. What is most significant about this conceptual plan is that it embodies the regional park concept and contains the six objectives provided by the St. Louis 2004 vision session:
This initiative is a conceptual design the citizens are asking for. It protects and preserves this magnificent watershed. By becoming part of the Confluence, citizens of St. Charles will be sharing this valuable asset with others within the regional park system.
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Updated March 16, 2007