‘Fish, birds and kids’: Waterfront activities for Monument and Fountain Creeks in Colorado Springs proposed to city council

· May 24, 2022, 3:57 pm
This reimagining of the area surrounding the Martin Drake Power Plant would require extensive work. The project calls for engaged creekside land use and reconnection of the Mill Street Neighborhood, following Fountain Creek from Cimarron Street south and east to Las Vegas Street.This reimagining of the area surrounding the Martin Drake Power Plant would require extensive work. The project calls for engaged creekside land use and reconnection of the Mill Street Neighborhood, following Fountain Creek from Cimarron Street south and east to Las Vegas Street.Courtesy of COS Creek Plan
This reimagining of the area surrounding the Martin Drake Power Plant would require extensive work. The project calls for engaged creekside land use and reconnection of the Mill Street Neighborhood, following Fountain Creek from Cimarron Street south and east to Las Vegas Street.

A group of community stakeholders wants to revitalize a seven-mile stretch of Monument and Fountain Creeks in Colorado Springs with spots for tubing and kayaking, as well as waterfronts and opportunities for neighborhood development. 

The vision presented to city council on Monday has five different segments, including a potential revamp of the north side of Monument Valley Park and the addition of a beach for water recreation near America the Beautiful Park. 

The COS Creek Plan starts at the Popcycle Bridge, located at Monument Valley Park near Beacon Street and Van Buren Street. It extends south to the confluence of Fountain Creek and Shooks Run Creek, just southeast of Dorchester Park.

Courtesy of COS Creek Plan
The COS Creek Plan depicts this portion of the project as a destination for leisure activities and ceremonies for Colorado College along the creek. "As the primary entry to the Colorado College campus and Old North End, this area should celebrate the educational and historical heart of Colorado Springs."

Chris Lieber with N.E.S., the company that produced the renderings, characterized the seven-mile stretch as a symbolic part of the Fountain Creek Watershed. The project's success, he said, would be measured by three things.

"Fish, birds and kids," he said, describing who and what they hope to attract to the area. "In many ways, we think that's what success could mean on a very tangible level."

On the project's website, the group cited periodic water sampling by Colorado Springs Utilities and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as proof the streams are safe for recreation and for supporting fish and wildlife. The site also addresses the amount of water available. 

"Fountain and Monument creeks have adequate flows to support a variety of recreation activities including, but not limited to, float tubing, beginner kayaking, informal water play and fishing. The amount of water varies throughout the year, providing additional seasonal recreation opportunities," the page reads.

Courtesy of COS Creek Plan
The COS Creek Plan sees new opportunities on the north end of Monument Valley Park including reclaimed land for development and restored natural corridor for active and passive recreation. "The design explores opportunities for multipurpose infrastructure that benefits the Creek ecosystem, storm water, and community."

Other goals for the project include restoring the natural function of the creeks, creating a signature place for water play and being a catalyst for reinvestment and economic vitality. 

Lieber said the recommendations would be an "integrated approach" to projects already taking place in the city. That includes a recent look into the construction of a platform for passenger rail and proposed updates to the Shooks Run Trail system.

"This is a plan that's an 'and' plan. It's not an 'or'," he said. "Communities that have done this well have said 'we're going to blend all of these things together into this narrow corridor to create a dynamic, vibrant, amazing space that works on all levels.'"

City Councilwoman Yolanda Avila lauded the idea and spoke of a recent visit to Pueblo's Historic Arkansas Riverwalk.

"I went on their opening day this year and I thought, 'why don't we have something like this in Colorado Springs?'" she said. "We are such an amazing city."

Courtesy of COS Creek Plan
The COS Creek Plan aims to create a comprehensive vision for the future investments and stewardship of Fountain Creek Watershed with a specific focus on segments of the Monument and Fountain creeks adjacent to Downtown Colorado Springs.

Jeff Shoemaker serves as executive director of the Greenway Foundation, another group involved in the vision. He cited Denver's Confluence Park, where two of the city's major waterways meet, as what might be possible in Colorado Springs.

"When the work on the river started in Denver, property values were 17 percent less than anywhere else in the city," he said. "And four years ago, they are right at 40 percent higher."

A current listing on Homes.com shows a 2,800 square foot condo caddy-corner to the park on the market for $2.5 million.

The multi-million dollar proposal for the Colorado Springs waterways would seek funding from grants, philanthropists, and a potential bond issue by the city. 

"We have already begun to strategize where dollars can come from," Shoemaker said. 

Work thus far came from a $800,000 grant from local philanthropist Lyda Hill.

City Councilman Bill Murray questioned the timeline for the project.

"Let's talk about some of the more practical pieces of this thing," he said. "I see an incredible amount of dirt that needs to be removed."

Courtesy of COS Creek Plan
This reimagining of the area surrounding the Martin Drake Power Plant would require extensive work. The project calls for engaged creekside land use and reconnection of the Mill Street Neighborhood, following Fountain Creek from Cimarron Street south and east to Las Vegas Street.

Still, Lieber said he hopes some part of the project will be underway in one to three years.

A master plan would have to be reviewed by the city planning commission before any progress could be made on the vision, as dictated by city code. It would then go before the City Council for a vote. Residents would also be asked to weigh-in.

Courtesy of COS Creek Plan
These maps show the proposed sites for revitalization along Monument and Fountain Creeks in Colorado Springs. The multi-million dollar vision was presented to Colorado Springs City Council as a potential catalyst for reinvestment and economic vitality.

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