Red Rock pond work to start this summer
1st phase is outlet to meet state water laws; Friends group seeks donations to fund refill (2nd phase)

       Construction of a nearly 500-foot-long underground outlet pipe this summer will be the first phase in a city/volunteer effort to restore, refill - and in fact legalize - the Bock ponds at Red Rock Canyon Open Space.

Looking south from the top of the dam at the downhill end of the lower pond in Red Rock Canyon Open Space, its dry bottom can be seen about 20 feet below, while in the background (next to the large rock formation at left) is the dam for the upper pond. A city project this summer will install an outlet pipe to end an illegal configuration (created by the previous property owners) in which the lower pond retains runoff water.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The pipe will be installed by a contractor hired through a bidding process managed by Colorado Springs Parks. Starting at the lowest point of the lower pond, the pipe will travel under an earthen dam en route to an existing Red Rock drainage system.
       “The first phase involves addressing the issues raised by the state water engineering and dam inspector,” explained City Parks Planner Chris Lieber in an e-mail. “We will be using TOPS funding already appropriated to install an outlet pipe through the lower dam. This will enable runoff water to slowly be released from the lower pond to be passed onto the rightful water owners downstream.”
       He added the assurance that the work will cause no lasting damage to the open space, and the only amenity closing during the work will be the wheelchair-access alternative to the straight-uphill Red Rock Canyon Trail, which is near the pipe location.
       No exact date has been set for the project, but “we anticipate this work to begin soon,” Lieber said. He estimated the cost at 45,000 to $50,000, which is part of this year's City Parks budget, with funding from the sales-tax generated Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) funds.
       The ponds were built, for drainage control and possibly aesthetics, by the Bock family during the 80-some years they owned the property (the city bought their 789 acres in 2003). The Bocks' main house, in plain view of the upper pond, was replaced a few years ago by an open-air pavilion off what is now the Red Rock Canyon Trail.

On the other side of the earthen dam behind the lower pond at Red Rock Canyon Open Space waits this drainage ditch. The new 500-foot-long outlet pipe will bring water to it from the lowest point of the pond. Photo looks north. Part of the wheelchair-access trail can be seen at right. The upper parking lot is in the far background.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The ponds are in a kind of valley between two sets of hogbacks, with water draining downhill to the north. The way they were built, the upper pond would capture any water flowing down the valley, and if it overflowed, the excess would go into the lower pond. The last time this happened was 1999, Lieber said, adding that the latter pond also can get runoff from nearby Greenlee Canyon.
       The Bocks had even planned for the potential overflow of the lower pond. Its dam has a spillway at the top, with any overflow guided to a drainage ditch the Bocks built downhill from it.
       The new outlet pipe, 22 feet underground at its deepest point, will empty into the ditch. Part of an existing drainage system, the ditch carries runoff water to a city-installed culvert under the access road and the drainage stays in underground pipes the rest of the way to Fountain Creek.
       The current configuration, in which both the ponds can retain large amounts of rainfall or drainage water, is actually against the law, the state inspector has told the city. “All scenarios must take into account that all of the surface and subsurface water is owned by Colorado Springs Utilities and other downstream entities, cannot be retained on-site and must be allowed to pass through to Fountain Creek,” the recently approved Red Rock Canyon master plan states.
       When the city bought the property, the upper pond was nearly full, about 15 feet deep, according to Lieber. But over time - an apparent result of the recent drought years - the water level has dropped to much less than half that, and the lower pond is usually dry.
       During last year's Red Rock master-plan process, the volunteer Friends of Red Rock Canyon, which works with the city on improvements to the park, asked the city about refilling the ponds - primarily to make the park more attractive as well as to keep local wildlife from going thirsty - and the goal eventually became part of the master plan.
       Since then, the city and the Friends have worked out an agreement. While the city takes care of the lower pond's issues, the Friends group works on a $100,000 fundraising campaign to cover most of the costs for the upper pond. An initial effort, through the annual IndyGive program last winter, brought in more than $10,000. Friends President Karl Klepfer said he is looking for major donations - ideally four of $25,000 each - to cover the balance, and then some.
       One group that Klepfer said the Friends are thinking of approaching for donations is the equestrian community, with the idea that an area could be set aside where horses could be led to the pond to drink.
       The big expense in filling the upper pond will be tapping into a Colorado Springs Utilities water main along Highway 24 and installing a pipe under the Red Rock Canyon Trail and on up to the pavilion area. Because that's all uphill, a pumping capability would be needed. Near the pavilion, Lieber said, tentative plans call for a water hydrant, which could serve the dual purpose of delivering water to the pond or serving a fire truck in case of need (because the trail is drivable up to the pavilion).
       Other upper-pond work will include modifications to accommodate a 100-year storm over its spillway and installing a liner in the bottom of the pond. The overall cost is estimated at $130,000 to $150,000. “Any matching funding coming from the City/TOPS would need to be budgeted in 2014,” Lieber said.
       For people interested in helping with the fundraising, the following appears in the most recent Red Rock Rag, the Friends' newsletter: “The Friends are actively working a new campaign to help restore the pond. Our goal is to raise the money before next winter so we can complete the work to have a fully, functional pond by the spring of 2014. We need your help with continued donations and community/ business outreach. If you can help, please let us know, or you can donate on our website:”

Westside Pioneer article