Monday, May 16, 2011

Decoding Skorman: Salazar's Crown Jewels


Salazar sees "crown jewel" in Fountain.

The Pueblo Chieftain

Publish date:

September 23, 2006 
Byline by: Chris Woodka

A plan to make Fountain Creek a "crown jewel" for the Arkansas Valley was unveiled Friday by Sen. Ken Salazar. The Colorado Democrat visited Pueblo and Colorado Springs to promote his vision of how a system of trails could connect the Lower Arkansas Valley with Colorado Springs under the umbrella of Colorado State Parks. The report is called "The Fountain Creek Crown Jewel Project: A 21st Century Vision for the Fountain Creek Corridor." Speaking of umbrellas, Salazar shunned those offered by staffers during a light drizzle Friday in favor of more traditional Western head gear. Standing atop the Fountain Creek levee near Eighth Street on the East Side, protected from rain by a cowboy hat, Salazar spoke about how other areas of the state such as the Colorado River in Grand Junction, South Platte and Cherry Creek in Denver and Yampa River in Northwest Colorado have created similar projects. "The Central South Platte Project has been key to the Denver metro area's renaissance. There you have six counties and 3 million people working together," Salazar said. "I would hope this Crown Jewel Project can bring down the division of the two communities."
Pueblo and Colorado Springs have had discussions for more than a year over troubles on Fountain Creek. Salazar recognized the problems of water quality that must be overcome on Fountain Creek before it can be fully enjoyed as a recreational area. "In order to realize the potential, you are going to have to overcome the problems," Salazar said. "That means improving the stormwater discharge, dealing with the erosion from development upstream and the wastewater. We need to make sure Colorado Springs Utilities will comply with the law and avoid the type of spills we've had in the past." Salazar said his report will complement the work of local officials who have begun meeting on Fountain Creek problems. That group will meet in Pueblo next Friday to discuss a vision for Fountain Creek. "My hope is this report will be the impetus for forming a task force out of that group," Salazar said. While in Pueblo, Salazar reiterated his support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Salazar is a co-sponsor of S. 1106, which would authorize federal funding for the conduit, and a member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee that is hearing the bill. He said regional cooperation will be needed to make the project a success, and a Fountain Creek State Park could be a building block. Salazar's staff, primarily led by former Colorado Springs City Councilman Richard Skorman and Arkansas Valley Regional Director Allison Cortner, began working on the project about six months ago. The report states one of its goals is to "calm down the acrimony and debate surrounding the Preferred Storage Options Plan and Southern Delivery System." The report builds on the work of State Parks Board Chairman Tom Ready, who has advocated the state park idea for several months, and the Peak to Prairie Project sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and Colorado Open Lands.
Activities envisioned by the report include: Camping. Campsites could be located at the Colorado Springs Utilities Hannah Ranch Property, near present gravel quarries that could become lakes, and near the Pinon exit along Interstate 25, where a proposed development in Pueblo County could include a reservoir. Fishing. Flatwater fishing is seen as a possibility in two reservoirs Colorado Springs has proposed in its SDS plan at Williams Creek and Jimmy Camp Creek in El Paso County.
Trails. The project envisions hundreds of miles of trails connecting Fountain Creek to existing trails in Colorado Springs, Pueblo and along the Front Range. Trails could also connect to and follow the route of the future Arkansas Valley Conduit. Besides the task force, Salazar suggests a wide range of goals, including coordinating access with the Department of Defense, establishing conservation trusts in the area and obtaining rights of way if SDS and the conduit are built.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

Planned creek pathway

By CHRIS WOODKA | Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 12:00 am

    A flood detention pond on Fountain Creek being developed as a demonstration project would be the first step toward extending Pueblo’s trail system to the north.
    There already is a trail along Fountain Creek through Pueblo, but that would be improved and added to the Front Range Regional Trail system, ultimately connecting with trails in the Colorado Springs area.
    The trails are part of the “Crown Jewel” proposal by then-U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar in 2007.
   The construction of trails would coincide with flood control and wetlands projects as they are completed along Fountain Creek, and eventually that would be the way most people relate to the creek.
    “Trail planning is included in all the design planning,” said Gary Barber, director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
 “One of the goals of the district is to coordinate the planning of the Front Range trail and we are working with the state in planning for the trail all the way to the Pinon Bridge.”
    The existing trails along Fountain Creek are part of the construction of levees in the 1980s, a legacy of the 1965 flood.
   They tie into trail systems along the Arkansas River and at Runyon Lake that have been developed on land owned by the Pueblo Conservancy District, which formed to control flooding after the 1921 flood.
    In the southeast part of town, a new park is being developed around Lake Minnequa — also as a result of what is, at its heart, a flood control project.
    In short, bulky, technically hard-to-understand flood control structures usually provide the underpinnings for recreational opportunities.
    The flood control basin north of Colorado Highway 47 near Dillon Drive will reduce minor flooding like that which plagued a nearby neighborhood in May 2007 by capturing some of the initial rush of water, then slowly releasing it over several hours after water levels subside.
    “We haven’t quite figured out how much water it would capture,” said Graham Thompson, who is the engineer for the project.
    The pond will backfill into the area, and the amount of water available for wetlands would vary within the basin, Thompson said.
    The wetlands themselves will be engineered for plant species that sustain or attract wildlife.
     “Merle Grimes (a landscape architect who worked on the project before his death this year) described it as kick-starting the wildlife habitat,” Thompson said. “You want to put the species in the zones where they will get the right amount of water.”
     There are currently few projects like the one being developed on Fountain Creek in Colorado, said Allen Green, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
    “There were projects on the Missouri River following the floods in 1993 that did the same thing by expanding the floodways,” Green said.
     By creating wetlands, the habitat for wildlife will be improved and the water quality should also get better, he added. Banks would be stabilized to reduce erosion and the buildup of sedimentation downstream.
     That will give walkers or bicyclists more to look at while making it a little safer to explore the area. There would be more educational opportunities in the process as well, Green said.
    As more areas are added, the trail could march north. Three other potential wetlands-detention sites are within a couple of miles of the demonstration project. In all, about 450 acres of land along Fountain Creek could be used for similar endeavors.
    At Clear Springs Ranch, near Pikes Peak International Raceway, Colorado Springs Utilities is developing another portion of Fountain Creek to restore wildlife viewing trails that existed in the area prior to the 1999 flood.
    The big floods — like those in 1965 — most likely would inundate the side detention ponds, Green acknowledged.
    However, a series of the ponds would go a long way toward containing less severe flooding by removing some of the river’s energy as it pushes downstream, he said.
    “It’s really a combination of things,” Green said. “This is just one piece of the puzzle, and if we can put enough of those pieces together, it will go a long way.”

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