Fixes found for forlorn Fountain Creek fragment from ‘02-03 SCIP project

       The changes may not be as visually dramatic as those in the $3.2 million Fountain Creek restoration project in front of Gold Hill Mesa in 2009-10, but city officials believe that $123,000 in recently competed planting work on two acres between there and Eighth Street will better define the channel and make it look less barren.

Thomas Repp, a city stormwater engineer, points out the budding on one of the 4,000 willows that were recently transplanted to help improve aesthetics and channel flow on Fountain Creek west of Eighth Street. In the background is a drop structure marking the eastern end of the 2009-10 creek-restoration project.
Westside Pioneer photo

       According to Thomas Repp, a city stormwater environmental project engineer, the plantings included 84 cottonwood trees (8-10 feet tall, lining the creek), 4,000 willows (about 3 feet tall, transplanted from places they've grown thickly downstream) and an acre's worth of riparian and upland grass seeding (which will help combat noxious weeds in that area).
       In addition, the contractor, Western States Reclamation, placed 34 boulders in the creek to help with fish habitats.
       “It will be great watching all that grow up in there,” Repp said. “It's going to fill in well. I'm excited to see those trees up front.”
       The new growth is in part of the 2002-03 Fountain Creek upgrade project that was originally worked on with voter-approved Springs Community Improvements Program (SCIP) funds. The SCIP project rerouted the creek from the trailer park to the bridge, removed all the old trees - many of them elms growing helter-skelter in the creek itself - and planted 93 cottonwoods beside the new channel. Unfortunately, none of those trees survived. A high death toll also seems to have affected SCIP shrubs and grasses - there were 6,000 plantings in all, according to a 2004 Westside Pioneer interview with former City Stormwater Engineer Ken Sampley - but some bare patches have remained there over the years, including a place just east of the 2009-10 project where the creek sometimes forks into a stagant pool. Such aesthetic issues have led to criticism from Westside residents. One of them, County Commissioner Sallie Clark, commented in 2004 that “it looks like a nuclear bomb went through.”
       Repp, who was not with the city at that time, said he does not know what happened with all the SCIP-planted cottonwoods. Apparently some died, while others were mistakenly removed in 2008 by city maintenance workers and the Corps of Engineers, according to a 2009 Pioneer interview with Sampley. However, Repp does know that the new trees are a little bigger than what SCIP put in, they're in burlap bags instead of containers and each of their trunks is encircled by fencing to fend off beavers and other critters. Also, the new cottonwoods have a two-year warranty period during which Western States will have to replace any that die, he said.

One of the recently newd cottonwood trees and numerous transplante willow plants can be seen in this photo taken along the south bank of Fountain Creek, looking east toward the Eighth Street bridge.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The $123,000 to fund the recent project resulted from a Colorado Health Department penalty against Rockrimmon Constructors for a violation of stormwater regulations on another part of Fountain Creek when Rockrimmon was the contractor for the 2005-08 COSMIX project that widened I-25. Allowed to apply the penalty funds elsewhere on Fountain Creek, the city chose the SCIP segment. There wasn't enough money for a complete redo, so the decision was made to implement “bio-enhancements” (the plantings), Repp explained.
       The 2009-10 Fountain Creek project, featuring creek realignment, bank rebuilding and extensive plantings, was accomplished between the trailer park and a point a few hundred feet east of 21st Street. That work was jointly funded by the Colorado Department of Transportation (which was concerned about the creek undercutting Highway 24), City Stormwater Enterprise (which no longer exists but at the time had identified flooding issues in that area), and Gold Hill Mesa (which wanted to ensure that tailings from the site's former gold mill no longer seeped into the creek).

Westside Pioneer article