COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Can you imagine having more public access to the city’s two main creeks, being able to sit comfortably along them and even play in the water?
That could happen in the near future for Fountain and Monument creeks in Colorado Springs.
A group of community leaders -- including former City Councilwoman Jan Martin and former University of Colorado-Colorado Springs Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak -- has spent the past year creating a future vision for the creeks flowing through and near downtown.
Shockley-Zalabak does volunteer work for Lyda Hill Philanthropies, founded by Hill, a Colorado native who later became a wealthy Dallas businesswoman, overcame breast cancer and developed and built the Garden of the Gods Visitor and nature center., according to the organization's website.
"We review projects that come to us, asking for her funding," Shockley-Zalabak said. "But we also suggest things that might further our community or the state of Colorado. We have worked with over 85 different organizations and used 42 previous plans, to inform this plan. So there's a great deal of input. We have integrated their thinking and their principles because the previous plans didn't integrate solving the problems that our creeks have."
The creek project received an unspecified grant from Hill, which was used to hire a consultant -- the Denver-based Greenway Foundation -- to study where and how creek improvements can be made.
Shockley-Zalaback added that such a project has never been funded by philanthrophy.
"Most vision plans begin with private funding," she explained. "The way we're doing it, it allows us to get public and private support later on. It's very exciting."
The plan looks at improving Monument Creek from the Popcycle Bridge near the Interstate 25 and Fontanero Street interchange, through where it drains into Fountain Creek, to where Fountain Creek flows south of downtown along I-25 and Nevada Avenue and Tejon Street.
The vision includes improving stormwater capacity and water quality, providing recreational opportunities and creating areas for development.
"We're looking at ways to provide a consistent flow of water in the creeks and to treat stormwater runoff at several sites along the creeks," said Chris Lieber, who works for NES, a planning and design firm in the city that's partnering in the project. "Imaging being able to have family tube floating in the creek. That's one of the many possibilities."
The vision, called the COS Creek Plan, was generally supported by the Council during Monday’s work session.
"(Mayor John Suthers) is excited about this," said Jeff Greene, the mayor's chief of staff told the Council. "The mayor and the executive branch are ready and willing to do all we can to proceed with this, and not have it be just an idea that sits on a shelf for many years."
The next step is for the Council to approve turning the vision into a master plan, which would be followed by determining determine costs, funding and timetables for completion.
The creek plan is modeled after the success Denver has had with similar projects along the South Platte River over the past 40 years.
"What happened in Denver led to turning neglected areas into major, popular attractions that spurred all kinds of development, including residential development that provided affordable housing," said Jeff Shoemaker, executive director for Greenway. "I don't think it will that long to realize the vision here because we're already ahead of the game. We have the interest in it and the will to do it."
Similar creek development projects have already been done in the city, most recently at the east end of Cheyenne Creek in the new Creekside retail development.
A continuing project focuses on beautification and increased access to the Shooks Run Creek, that flows several miles east of downtown.
To see the entire plan, visit: http://COSCreekPlan.org.