Bee Branch Creek Watershed Restoration and Activation
With the help of a citizen advisory committee, Dubuque was able to successfully complete the Bee Branch Creek, which now moves storm-water safely through neighborhoods that previously had been consistently devastated by flooding. However, despite removing the threat of flash flooding, many residents are still living with residual health and safety issues from water intrusion.
In 2003, a 16-member Bee Branch Citizen Advisory Committee was formed to determine a means to safely channel water out of flood prone neighborhoods which had been consistently damaged during several floods over the course of a decade. After committee, public, and neighborhood meetings, the committee’s recommendation to create an open channel and restore the Bee Branch Creek was adopted.
The Lower Bee Branch Creek was completed in 2011 and the Upper Bee Branch Creek was finished in 2017. The creek stretches through two neighborhoods, where most residents are low to moderate income. The restored creek serves as a linear park with a multi-use trail, scenic overlooks, play areas, a community orchard and garden. Most importantly, in 2017, 4.9” rain fell in less than 24 hours and thanks to the completed Bee Branch Creek, property damage was largely avoided.
However, an assessment of 191 flood-damaged properties revealed that 82% had needs related to mold, moisture intrusion, and dampness. It became clear that these homes overlapped significantly with the Bee Branch Watershed. The Dubuque County Health Needs Assessment also noted that the Bee Branch watershed was a high-risk area for the social determinants of health.
With the assessment revealing that many residents are still living with residual health and safety issues from water intrusion, the City of Dubuque was awarded a grant for the Bee Branch Healthy Homes Resiliency Program. The program is available to both property owners and tenants who are low- to moderate-income. A variety of repairs and renovations are being made to decrease health and safety issues and make homes more resilient to future flooding.
In addition to improving physical environments, every participating household meets with a Visiting Nurses Association home advocate. The advocates identify barriers the participants are facing and connect them to local resources to help them overcome those challenges.
One participant was referred to a higher education opportunity to complete their massage therapy certificate. Another was able to setup a payment plan with a local utility company to catch up on energy bills. A participant who frequently traveled out of town for medical treatment was able to receive mileage reimbursement. Each of these situations resulted in extra monthly income that can now be used for other family needs.
While infrastructure improvements build stability in a neighborhood, public art can bring neighbors together to celebrate and increase social resiliency. To remove an eye sore from the Bee Branch neighborhood, the city partnered with Washington Neighborhood leaders to gather over 180 pieces of hand-drawn artwork from residents, most of them children. The drawings were converted into digital art, enlarged, and placed on banners. The result is a collage of larger than life artwork created by the community.
In addition to bringing the community together through art, the Leisure Services Rec ‘n Roll Trailer builds community through recreation. The trailer was rolled out in 2017, visiting nineteen community events including the opening of the Bee Branch Creek Greenway. In 2018, the Rec ‘n Roll Trailer was utilized over 50 times, greatly expanding the community’s offering of free programs. The trailer transports a large inflatable movie screen that can be popped up in any open greenspace. Free movie nights in parks throughout the city are now a popular offering. By eliminating transportation and cost barriers, the Rec ‘n Roll Trailer brings family, friends, and neighbors together in a fun and equitable way.
What started as a project to reduce flooding in a disadvantaged neighborhood, has since turned into a larger effort to improve previously flooded homes, address resident’s health challenges and bring the neighborhood together through public art spaces and inclusive recreational events.
Kristin Hill, City of Dubuque
Bee Branch Creek Watershed Restoration & Activation
Dubuque, IA- 2019 AAC Winner: Presentation