Residents warned against gardens on public property

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Sunday, April 27, 2008
— Janesville’s park department workers are digging up gardens planted on public greenbelts, and some of the owners don’t understand why.

Linda Frank said her rock garden has been behind her home at 1611 Shannon Drive since 1995.

But the city has told her it must be moved onto her own property.

“I just can’t imagine that little bit of footage would make that much difference,” she said. “It’s just a little past the 20-foot line … Being as it’s already here, and we’re maintaining it, what’s the problem?”

When the Franks bought the home, neighbors told her she had “20 feet you can play with.”

She never thought to call the city about using the greenbelt.

Cliff Englert, parks supervisor, said that Frank would have discovered it is illegal to plant in the greenbelts.

The ordinance forbids any structures or landscaping.

“We have nothing against landscaping,” Englert said. “It just has to be on your property.”

If some property owners are allowed to plant in the public greenbelt, then why shouldn’t everyone? he asked.

Frank thinks its ridiculous to spend city money to dig up something that she’s maintaining. It’s better than letting the thistles run rampant in the greenbelt, she said.

Plus, the gardens add something beautiful, and she can’t imagine why anyone would complain about them.

But Englert said he has received numerous complaints about the greenbelts between Milwaukee Street and Randolph Road west of Shannon Drive.

Many gardens have been planted in greenbelts, and some extend 40 to 50 feet into public property.

But the city doesn’t have greenbelt police and responds on a complaint basis.

The greenbelts’ primary purpose is to act as a storm water drainage system, Englert said. The DNR is more strictly regulating sediment flow into waterways. One way to stop erosion is to plant prairie grasses and trees, which more readily allow water to percolate into the soil.

But a prairie environment needs occasional burning to allow the prairie seeds to germinate and to kill weeds. The vegetation must be suitable for that method of control.

The city continues to meet with residents along the greenbelts to talk about the need to improve storm water absorption.

Englert said he has been working with folks in the Shannon Drive area for two years to get them to comply.

The policy allows residents to mow 20 feet past their property lines to control weeds that might otherwise creep into lawns.

Residents can work with the department if they want to plant native species, such as oak, maple and possibly crabapple trees, Englert said.

Frank said she hopes to buy the property on which her garden sits and is considering calling council members to see if that’s possible.

But Englert said he’s never heard of the city selling off parts of the greenbelt.

It’s the city’s drainage system, he said.

“It won’t help us to have irregular boundaries throughout the system,” he said.

Last updated: 8:50 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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