Fountain Creek work to start in mid-Feb.

       A $3.6 million project to upgrade Fountain Creek past Gold Hill Mesa is anticipated to break ground in mid-February, with completion three months after that.

An architect's drawing combines a rendering of the to-be-improved Fountain Creek project area with photos illustrating the restoration concept. The two photos in center top are of the drainage configuration in Fountain Creek behind Angler's Covey.
Westside Pioneer photo (drawing prepared by CDOT consultants)

       This time frame emerged from an informal public meeting Jan. 7 at the Gold Hill Mesa community center. The affected area of the creek will be just south of state- maintained Highway 24, roughly between 12th and 20th streets.
       Representatives of the three entites partnering on the project - Gold Hill, Colorado Springs Stormwater Enterprise and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) - were at the meeting, along with City Vice Mayor Larry Small. All spoke enthusiastically about the creek improvements that will result, in terms of flood control, stream stabilization, pollutant mitigation, wildlife habitat, vegetation and general aesthetics.
       Small pointed out that the project is “one of the first” that meets the technical and aesthetic objectives of the regional Fountain Creek Vision Task Force.
       The status of the project is that a bid package is being finalized, Watt elaborated. The plan is to put the work out to bids and have a contractor chosen and ready to go by mid-February. The project cost is being shared by the three entities. Stormwater Enterprise is rounding up its portion ($1.8 million) from current customer fees.
       Bob Willard, lead developer for Gold Hill Mesa (who proposed the project initially), said its cost has been reduced by $1 million as a result of Gold Hill's recycling broken concrete from the former gold mill and using the pieces to “armor” the creek walls. The concrete would be covered.

Representatives of the entities partnering in the project are (from left) Dave Watt of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Ken Sampley of City Stormwater Enterprise, Gold Hill Mesa developer Bob Willard and City Council member/Vice Mayor Larry Small.
Westside Pioneer photo

       A few hard questions were put forward by two members of the public - Dave Leinweber, owner of the Angler's Covey store next to Fountain Creek at 21st Street and Highway 24, and Pete Gallagher, a creek drainage consultant. Leinweber, who was required to upgrade Fountain Creek behind his new building four years ago when he moved his business there, was concerned that the Gold Hill/city/ CDOT project might wind up being an “eyesore”; he compared the look of the plans to the currently treeless segment of the creek the city had worked on five years ago just west of Eighth Street.
       Ken Sampley, director of the Stormwater Enterprise, revealed that the no-tree situation near Eighth was due to a misunderstanding last spring when city maintenance workers and the Core of Engineers removed numerous cottonwoods that had been planted as part of the city project. A major replanting, including several hundred new trees, is foreseen this spring, Sampley said.
       As for the Gold Hill Mesa section, Sampley and Willard said the idea is to preserve as many of the existing trees as possible.
       Gallagher, who led the Angler's Covey improvements and is working with Trout Unlimited in a continuing Fountain Creek restoration project in Manitou Springs, suggested that the Gold Hill project is being billed as a “restoration” effort but is actually more concerned with flood control. Additional steps could be taken to make it work as a trout habitat, he said.
       Willard assured Gallagher that his suggestions are welcomed. “The more alive it [the creek] is, the more alive it is for us,” he said. Mark Wilson, a CDOT landscaping consultant on the project, said that one particular point Gallagher had raised about the extent of grouting in the creek bottom has already been incorporated into the project plans.
       Leinweber and Gallagher both asked about the lack of a consistent flow in the creek. Because Colorado Springs Utilities can (and sometimes does) use its diversion capability near 33rd Street to send most of the Fountain Creek flow to its Mesa water treament plant, this can prove fatal to fish habitats downstream. Dave Watt of CDOT said discussions are occurring with Utilities regarding that issue - in fact, Utilities has already agreed to allow a certain amount of flow this summer to ensure that young plantings as part of the upcoming project will have sufficient water to take hold.

Westside Pioneer article