Re-envisioning the Fountain Creek Watershed
What if we could use our creeks, rather than just build around or over them? We could kayak, tube, paddle-board, or fish in the natural creeks we have built our city around. We could provide wetland habitats for birds, fish, and vegetation. We could increase property values along our creeks by opening them up for recreation and revitalizing their natural beauty.
The COS Creek Plan envisions a “thriving Fountain Creek Watershed” along segments of the Monument and Fountain Creeks. The plan would revitalize and maintain the natural beauty of the creeks at these focus points, and encourage aquatic recreation for residents and visitors. The five sites identified for this project are:
- Monument Valley Park and Centennial Neighborhood
- College Landing at Uintah
- America The Beautiful Park
- Martin Drake Power Plant waterfront
- Gateway Park South
A Brief History
The plan began in 2020, and received $800,000 from Lyda Hall Philathropies in Denver to help get the plan off its feet. Since then, former City Councilwoman Jan Martin, who has been involved with the plan’s leadership team, is helping to fund the new non-profit Fountain Creek Watershed Corp. to work closely with the city on the plan’s development. Between 2020 and 2023, many steps have already been taken to evaluate the opportunities and research for such an undertaking.
In 2020, the first step was to understand the watershed itself. This included site visits to conduct research and compile data for review, research historical documentation of the creeks, examining any current and all past plans for the areas, and meeting with 80 community stakeholders.
After the research stage was complete, in Spring 2021 identifying opportunities and challenges was next. Meeting with the stakeholders, ideas were explored, resources were identified, and scenarios discussed in order to build a vision for the watershed.
Summer 2021 saw the vision coming together. Concept development and design, including alternatives, were created. The vision was ready to be shared in Spring and Summer 2022. The COS Creek Plan was distributed and looked for community engagement regarding short-, mid-, and long-term goals.
What exactly is this vision? The plan takes a holistic approach with a belief “stormwater and flood risk management can be an integral part of a larger idea that maintains and restores natural functions of the creeks, provides opportunities for recreation and relaxation, and enhances the economic value and quality of life for citizens and visitors of Colorado Springs.”
The plan follows these four principles:
- Restore the Natural Functions of the Corridor
- Create a Premiere Destination for Outdoor Recreation & Leisure
- Support Economic Vitality and Revitalization
- Create a Strong Sense of Place Unique to Colorado Springs
So, what’s next? The plan needs as much feedback as possible. The plan was presented to the Colorado Springs City Council in 2022, and received positive support. The City Council has promised to see the plan come to life by working closely with project. One step the city can take is to adopt a formal master plan and engage the community for input. Community feedback is just as important. The COS Creek Plan has a feedback form on their website for anyone to submit their thoughts and comments.
Before the project gets started, one of these five sites have to be chosen as the place to begin. America The Beautiful Park is the leading candidate. Recreational opportunities at this site are the most promising. The biggest challenge for the park is a berm made with asbestos which separates the water from the park. The asbestos will need to be mitigated as the berm is removed to prevent contamination.
To learn more about the COS Creek Plan and its vision, click here. You can read a comprehensive guide as well as information on the proposed sites. The website also has an FAQ page that dives deeper into the benefits and challenges of the project. A Gazette article written by Mary Shin in 2022 is a good read relating to the COS Creek Plan.