Completion of Reservoir Project Estimated for Spring of 2022

Big Trees, Inc., the City contractor for the Morgan Street reservoirs’ remodel, has made substantial progress on the conversion to wetland and expects to finish the project in the spring of 2022. The contractor is currently working on the improvement of water outlet structures for both reservoirs. When construction begins again in the spring, native species of wildflowers and grasses will be introduced, along with new trees in the wetland area.

“Our community selected this option as the best balance of ecological, historical, recreation and economic considerations,” the City’s most recent construction update read.

The remodeling contract was awarded to Big Trees for a total cost of $535,885, exceeding the original estimate of $300,000. Construction fencing was erected at the site just before Labor Day. City Public Works Director Jeff Baumann described the steps Big Trees has taken in the remodeling since then.

“They have substantially completed the recreation of the upper west reservoir as a wetland, so the finished grades are more or less established,” Baumann said. “The trails are set up, but they are not built.”

Big Trees will break for the winter due to prohibitive weather conditions and return in the spring to introduce new vegetation.

“Our contractor Big Trees is doing the work that they can effectively do this time of year given that it’s pushing freezing temperatures and somewhat wet with the occasional snow and cold rain,” Baumann said. “Ultimately, in springtime, they’ll come in and put in the wildflower native grass mixes in the open areas, and plant all the trees that are a part of the wet woodland area, which is to the west and north of the new wetland.”

Associate Professor of Biology Roger Laushman, who works with students in protecting the Arboretum from invasive species, is particularly invested in the introduction of new flora as part of the remodel.

“Our interest is keeping invasive species from taking over the wetland,” Laushman said. “One of the best ways to keep invasive species out is to [plant] native species [to occupy] the habitat.”

Although the most recent construction update from the City estimated completion in April 2022, Baumann believes it will continue into May as the construction is heavily reliant upon weather conditions.

“[It will be completed] either towards the end of April or early May,” Baumann said. “There’s no telling what the weather’s going to be like in the spring, but typically it’s wet and cool into March and early April, which makes it hard to get onto the site and put down stone and accomplish the hardscape improvements.”

Until then, students and community members can continue to access the Arb through the Ladies Grove entrance south of the Prospect/Morgan Street intersection or through the South Professor Street entrance.