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Effort begins to consider increasing recreational options to Fountain, Monument creeks in Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Can you imagine kayaking, tubing or even fly-fishing in the city's two main waterways? It could happen in the near future.

A private effort has begun to study the possibility of re-designing parts of Fountain and Monument creeks, how to do it and how to pay for it.

NES Inc. -- a local private architectural, design and planning firm -- is one of five entities working on the plan.

The areas to be studied are Monument Creek from the Popcycle Bridge in Monument Valley Park to Fountain Creek at Cimarron Street, and Fountain Creek from Cimarron Street to Dorchester Park near South Tejon Street.

Seven miles of waterways will be covered in the yearlong study, known as the Fountain Creek Watershed Vision and Implementation Plan

The study will investigate how to upgrade the ecosystem, recreation potential, development opportunity and infrastructure along the creeks; most of the areas are publicly owned.

Chris Lieber, a landscape architect with NES, said that he hopes the effort will identify projects and complete them within three years after the study is finished.

"There won't necessarily be recreation available along the entire designated waterway at all times of the year," he said. "We want to start small and then maybe build up gradually. We believe now's the time for this effort. It's a great opportunity to really look at all of those pieces and think big. As a community, if we're going to be spending dollars in the creek, why not do it a way that is holistic and is part of a bigger vision?"

One challenge with offering better recreational opportunities in the creeks is that access to them is difficult in many areas. Building more public creekside open areas -- such as the one on Monument Creek near the Uintah Street bridge -- is one solution.

Other issues specific to the creeks are illegal dumping, high bacteria levels partly due to waste from homeless camps and an inconsistent flow of water throughout the year.

Another partner in the study is a Denver-based nonprofit group, The Greenway Foundation, which was successful in redeveloping the South Platte River and Cherry Creek as a popular recreation area -- overcoming problems with dump sites, raw sewage and paint pollution.

The belief is that Fountain and Monument creeks near downtown have far less serious issues that can be easier to overcome as well as provide more recreation and tourism.

The planning group conducting the study also will cooperate with city officials on the plan. Richard Mulledy, the city's stormwater manager, said that some stormwater projects could be changed to help the group meet its objectives.

"We have a meeting with the group next week," he said. "What they want to do, fits in with our strategy of building more natural stormwater structures. It's a great time for a group like this to come forward and ask about multi-use. If we're going to do a project to rehabilitate a stream and have natural features, it really lends itself to a public amenity."

Lieber said the study will include seeking public feedback at a later date.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.


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