Plans are in the works to open up or “daylight” Jordan Creek between Boonville and Main in downtown Springfield. It’s currently underground in a box culvert. The project to move the creek underground was done in the late 1920s and was funded with a bond issue that was approved by city voters in 1927.
The city of Springfield’s principal stormwater engineer, Chris Dunnaway, told City Council Tuesday about preliminary plans for the area and gave a history of flooding along Jordan Creek since development in the Jordan Valley began in the mid 19th Century.
Loring Bullard, in his book, "Jordan Creek: The Story of an Urban Stream," writes about seven major floods that occurred in 42 years, between 1844 and 1886. One flood, Dunnaway said, in 1859, reached the second story of buildings on Boonville. One of the worst floods was in 1909 and caused $500,000 in damage, the equivalent of $14 million today, he said, and the creek has continued to flood every few years since. The latest event was in 2016 when floodwaters reached 4 feet on Jefferson Avenue, according to Dunnaway.
Phase 1 of the daylighting project will restore Jordan Creek to a natural stream, add native landscaping, a new bridge at Campbell Avenue and a greenways trail to fill gaps in the Jordan Creek Greenway. Other plans include open greenspace, decorative lighting and electrical improvements to provide a place for recreation and events. But Dunnaway told council, "this isn't a riverwalk. This isn't some artificial Branson attraction. This would be a project to restore our founding waters and highlight some of the unique qualities here in the Ozarks such as karst topography, spring fed creeks, things like that."
It can be argued that Springfield owes its existence to Jordan Creek. John Polk Campbell, Springfield’s founder, settled along its banks in the late 1820s.
Dunnaway expects the project to improve water quality in the creek, which is on the Missouri Department of Natural Resources 303d list of impaired waters. And he said the daylighting and restoration of the stream, as well as the creation of detention basins further north upstream (one is completed and another is under construction), are expected to significantly decrease flooding in downtown Springfield.
$6.8 million from the level property tax, approved by voters in 2017, has been budgeted for the restoration. The project was first discussed during the Vision 20/20 comprehensive planning process.
While the city has an idea what the project might look like, it wants public input. Dunnaway said they'll hold public meetings during the detailed design phase of the project, which will likely begin in early 2020. Construction is expected to begin in late 2021.
Watch Dunnaway's presentation to Springfield City Council here.