When the city of Monona rebuilt Winnequah Road 11 years ago, a storm drain in our front yard was inexplicably moved to higher ground. Subsequently, our driveway started flooding every time we got a good toad-choker of a rainstorm.

Also, the drain was difficult to mow around. So, we asked – and got – permission to install a rain garden around the drain, to soak up the excess water.

Old-timers may remember a few years back when rain gardens were all the rage. You could even get a $200 grant from Dane County to help offset the cost.

Well, they’re out of favor now, primarily because of weeds. My rain garden is Exhibit A.

The problem is, native plants are the best species for rain gardens, and a lot of them look like weeds, so it’s hard to know what to pull (unless you are my neighbor, Jim Draeger, aka The Smartest Man in Monona, who has memorized the Latin names of all the three zillion types of hostas growing in his lovely yard.).

And although some advice on rain gardens says you should mulch them to keep down the weeds, I don’t see how that would work. It seems to me that all the mulch would either wash into the storm drain or onto the driveway.

But I found a new tool over the weekend: a $4 phone app called PlantSnap. You just take a picture of a plant, and the app tells you what it is.

It works like a charm. (Sure wish that app had been around back when my kids had to do their “leaf projects” in school.) The tansy mustard and asthma weed will be leaving this week, thank you very much.

Golf course debate

I went to a meeting last week on the city of Madison’s plan (although they claim it’s not a plan, just a possibility) to sell the Monona Golf Course for development.

The meeting drew more than 100 people, and every one of them said selling the course is a bad idea.

Monona Mayor Mary O’Connor was there, although she didn’t speak – just listened. (I like that in a city official.)

But among the Monona residents who did speak were Mark Buffat, who said the Monona course is a good course for a wide range of golfers with differing abilities.

Buffat said he played a round there with his son and his father, who were then joined by an even older gentleman.

“It was four generations, and we all had fun,” he said.

He also pointed out the golf course is used by golf, track and cross country teams from both La Follette and Monona Grove high schools and by cross-country skiers in the winter.

Anne Waidelich of the Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society talked about Dean House, built in 1856, which is on the golf course. The surrounding parkland is important for the group’s annual Back Porch Concerts in the summer.

“Parkland is irreplaceable,” Waidelich said.

A woman who said she does not golf but lives on the edge of the course spoke movingly about the wildlife it harbors: deer, foxes, coyotes, sand hill cranes and 86 varieties of migratory birds.

“This land is a treasure,” she said.

And a man spoke about the First Tee program, which works with social service agencies all over the county to teach kids how to golf.

Seventy-five percent of the program’s participants are low-income, he said. The First Tee program also staffs learning centers throughout the Madison area, offering First Tee participants help with academics.

Several of the golfers who spoke said the Monona course, which operates at or close to profitability, isn’t the problem – Yahara is.

The 36-hole course on the southeast edge of Madison loses money consistently, because it’s not as convenient or as much fun to play as Monona, they said.

Also, it has persistent drainage problems that make it frequently unplayable, they added, suggesting selling off 18 of Yahara’s holes.

Readers react

I also heard from several readers about last week’s column. One gentleman called me to point out the Madison courses no longer charge a premium to non-resident golfers, which I should have known (except I haven’t touched a golf club in 10 years).

Julie Sparks of Madison e-mailed, “Thank you for your article in the McFarland Thistle. My friend lives in McFarland and I live in Madison, and we both adore and often play at Monona golf course. We vehemently agree with you.

“If the city is looking for revenue for their (golf operation), why not make Odana a nine-hole course as the back nine holes are usually under water anyway? Or downsize Yahara to 18 holes. Don’t pick on our beloved Monona golf course.”

And Skip Smith from Glendale e-mailed, “Your opinion piece about the golf course is spot on ...

“I do not want the golf course to go away. It is so nice to drive down Monona Drive as I have for so many years and enjoy the golf course, seeing people playing (and for a few years, looking for my son, who worked there …

“I remember some years back when Mitch Henck was the only sane voice on the radio. The Madison (city) budget had some issues and they were looking for other revenue to steal …

“Well, the golf courses in those days made money and they decided to take the money ... do you remember that? Mitch went ballistic when he heard about that and it was talked about for sometime.

“I also believe that firing the pros who loved their jobs was the beginning of the end for a great system trashed by self-serving politicos. … Keep up the good work!”

I also heard from one woman who told me she hated golf courses, because they were only for rich people. When I told her that you could play a round at Monona for as little as $11, she told me that she pays a personal trainer $45 a week. Now who’s rich?

Oh, and Monona Grove School Board member Jeff Simpson – who lives out in Cottage Grove, far away from the shootings and murders that have plagued Madison this summer -- called me a racist for opposing more low-income housing. What a limousine liberal!

Got something Sunny Schubert should know? Call her at 222-1604 or e-mail sunschu16@gmail.com.

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