One time when I was around 12 I went to the ditch at the end of my street and climbed inside. I walked as far as I could in one direction. At one point I reached a tunnel that seemed to have no end. I could hear water flowing through, it echoed against the walls. There was a slight breeze coming from the inside, it smelled like mold or something dead. Walking below the neighborhood in that ditch was an exciting experience. It felt like I was a submarine captain piloting a ship in between houses, unsuspecting of their residents. At eye level with the foundation of their house I felt secret. I came back to that ditch many times, even though my parents were not fond of me frequenting it. My neighborhood ditch was different from the one you see above. It was completely cement with no plants, no fish or animals to be seen. You can imagine my surprise the first time I found this neighborhood ditch, realizing it was teeming with life.
The place you see in the photo was created out of necessity, but it was created with a lot of foresight. City planners know that drainage ditches must be built in neighborhood developments. However, they often look like the one in the neighborhood I grew up in. Why then, would someone go to the effort of constructing an almost completely natural creek bed? I did some internet searching and found out that there is a teeny tiny clause in the Austin building code that requires all drainage surfaces to be no greater than 45% impervious. This means that water has to be able to seep into the ground, no questions asked. Why on earth would this be important, why am I dedicating a whole blog post to this? This little line in the building code means that nature now has a tiny oasis in an otherwise harsh landscape that is suburbia. There is water in this creek almost all year round. There are fish, frogs, a plethora of other animals that call this place home. This is a space for them in a place we have created for us.
I regularly walk my dog down this road and she will often stop at the creek for a drink or hop in to cool off. For the past few weeks there has been a huge bull frog that sits on the ledge near the bridge. It will “bloop” into the water when we get just close enough for a glimpse. In the early morning you can see the barn swallows diving in to drink water. In the late evening the bats dive in and out of the treeline just above the water to catch bugs. After the week of rain the grass has been plowed over by the water, revealing all manner of creatures. If I were to name a specific goal for this blog it would be to show the average person that there is so much going on right under their nose. Right behind your house there is massive natural beauty and diversity that can be cultivated with a tiny bit of effort. This drainage ditch and the policy that created it, is an example of just that.
Photos taken by me
link to the Austin watershed city code http://austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Planning/Rules/backup13_18.pdf
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