By, Brian Hyde
In the American Planning Association’s City Parks Forum Planning Briefing Paper 5, “How Cities Use Parks for Green Infrastructure”, authors Ed McMahon and Mark Benedict of The Conservation Fund’s Center for Conservation and Development make four “Key Points”. Two of those points are directly relevant to this column and the idea of an integrated system of restored stream corridors in the eastern portion of Denver.
“KEY POINT #1: Creating an interconnected system of parks and open space is manifestly more beneficial than creating parks in isolation.
No single park, no matter how large and how well designed, would provide citizens with the beneficial influences of nature; instead parks need to be linked to one another and to surrounding residential neighborhoods. —Frederick Law Olmsted”
Note: Olmsted is the noted landscape architect who designed Boston’s Emerald Necklace, a seven-mile connected strand of parks and open spaces in a semi-circle around much of the city.
“KEY POINT #4: Cities can use parks to reduce public costs for stormwater management, flood control, transportation, and other forms of built infrastructure.
Perhaps the greatest value of an interconnected green space system is the financial benefit that may be gained when green infrastructure reduces the need for built infrastructure. When designed to include stream networks, wetlands, and other low-lying areas, a city’s green space system can provide numerous stormwater management benefits, including storing, carrying, and filtering storm runoff….
Bellevue,Washington. Flood control and stormwater management in urban areas typically involve vast networks of underground storm sewers that feed into channelized streams or ditches and eventually into natural waterways. These systems are very expensive, and under extreme flood conditions they often fail. … Today (in Bellevue) two city agencies, the Storm and Surface Water Utility and the Parks and Recreation Department, use the same land to accomplish multiple objectives.”
In this column, to date I have talked about two watersheds, the Westerly Creek watershed and the Montclair Creek watershed. Allow me to expand the conversation to address the majority of the territory in the eastern portion of the City and County of Denver:
- east of South Santa Fe Drive and Interstate 25,
- north of Hampden Avenue, and
- south of Interstate 70.
As well as including the two watersheds already discussed, and the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, this geographic territory includes:
- The Harvard Gulch watershed (tributary to the South Platte near Evans Avenue),
- The Goldsmith Gulch watershed (tributary to Cherry Creek near Monaco), and
- The Park Hill Drainage Basin (tributary to the South Platte near its confluence with Sand Creek and near the crossing of the river by I-270).
This month’s column is presenting the general idea of mimicking Boston’s famed Emerald Necklace with Denver’s “Emerald Spider’s Web”. Speaking seriously, the notion is to interconnect five (5) tributary watersheds along with Denver’s two crown jewel greenway corridors (the South Platte and Cherry Creek) to create a holistic network of parks, greenways and open spaces on Denver’s east side. With the exception of Harvard Gulch, Denver’s Gulch Master Plan (Department of Parks and Recreation) focuses on Denver’s west side waterways. The concept of that master plan is described in the Executive Summary
“Why was the plan developed? Viewing and appreciating nature while recreating adjacent to a waterway is truly a unique feature for a park system to have as a community amenity. Denver residents located on the west side of the city are fortunate to have these wonderful natural resources. Parks and Recreation recognizes how the value of this resource can contribute to the quality of life and be a catalyst for economic growth. To capture these beneficial aspects, DPR’s planning efforts are dedicated to creating environmental enhancements for the five gulches contained in this study.”
That vision is equally appropriate for the east side of our city.
At greaterparkhill.org you will find a map showing these five watersheds, the channel of the South Platte River, the channel of Cherry Creek and the existing network of parks, open spaces and trails on our side of town. Over the next three months, each of the three additional streams besides Westerly Creek and Montclair Creek will be explored in this column. That exploration will begin in the April 2013 issue with Goldsmith Gulch. If you, the readers, are interested in walks in each of those three additional watersheds, let me know. If you ask me, I will be happy to lead exploratory visits to see how appealing an Emerald Spider’s Web might be for this part of Denver.
An expert in floodplain management, Brian Hyde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-939-6039.