Joint effort proposed for Gold Hill-area creek restoration

       A three-entity project to restore Fountain Creek along the north boundary of Gold Hill Mesa has been unveiled. Stephanie Edwards and Barry Brinton of the Gold Hill Mesa
development team take a look at a segment of Fountain
Creek that flows through the north end of the property. A 
proposed creek restoration project would combine Gold
Hill with the City Stormwater Enterprise and Colorado 
Department of Transportation.
Westside Pioneer photo
       The work, intended to stabilize and beautify the creek while improving water quality between 12th and 20th streets, is tentatively planned to start this fall and be completed by next spring.
       Colorado Springs City Council members offered no objections at their informal meeting July 28 after a presentation on the $3.6 million plan by the three entities involved - Gold Hill Mesa, the Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT) and the city Stormwater Enterprise.
       Council still needs to formally approve the Stormwater part of the plan. A vote is anticipated at the meeting Tuesday, Aug. 12. No new city spending is envisioned. The vote would ratify Stormwater Director Ken Sampley's recommendation to put the Gold Hill/ Fountain Creek project ahead of another Fountain Creek drainage- upgrade project (farther downstream) that had been scheduled this year.
       The argument to council was not that Gold Hill/Fountain Creek is an emergency need, but that doing it this year would allow cost savings that would not be possible if it had to wait.
       Bob Willard, the lead developer for Gold Hill, estimated an overall savings of a quarter of a million dollars. A major part of that would come from reusing multiple tons of old concrete - broken remnants of the site's former gold-mill buildings - to “armor” the creek banks, he explained. He also has favorable loan opportunities now for his cost share, through the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Willard told council.
       In a separate interview, Barry Brinton and Stephanie Edwards, part of the Gold Hill development team, noted another cost savings. This would result from Gold Hill residents volunteering for some of the preliminary clean-up work in the project area.
       The project expense would be shared as follows: the city Stormwater Enterprise $1,669,145; Gold Hill Mesa $1,112,763; and CDOT $846,262. The resulting total is exactly $3,628,170; however, the actual cost will depend on how bids come in from contractors. That process cannot get started until council approves the Stormwater project switch.
       The idea initially started with Willard, who was on a committee last year that was looking into possible creek improvements in conjunction with the planned Highway 24 expansion through the Westside. “The question came up when that might take place and the answer was many, many years,” Willard said in a follow-up interview. “But I'll be developing long before that. We would have to address this a lot sooner rather than later if we want to take advantage of unique cost saving opportunities that we have if we do it now.”
       So Willard contacted Sampley and CDOT, pointing out the advantages to them. For the city, there remains a responsibility from the SCIP project approved by voters in 1999. The vote set aside funds to upgrade the Fountain from its confluence with Monument Creek west to 21st Street. A city project completed in 2004 did rehab work on portions of that stretch, leaving out the Gold Hill segment because of unanticipated costs elsewhere. For CDOT, Willard said, the project's appeal is to address the problem of mill tailings in its right of way (not all the creek is on Gold Hill property). Dave Poling of CDOT told council that even if the state agency were not studying a Highway 24 expansion, “we would still be interested in doing this project.”
       In his presentation to council, Sampley listed numerous project goals. These include sediment stabilization, obtaining a clean “bill of health” for that area from State Health, an improved watershed, control of contaminants from the Gold Hill property (the development is already building water detention structures to reduce storm flows into the creek), reducing erosion and flooding, creating wetlands and providing a “demonstration project” for future creek restoration efforts.
       The project would also create a service road near the creek that could double as a trail, said Chuck Gustafson, a consultant for CDOT.
       No creek rerouting or major bank realignments are envisioned. The idea is to leave the channel basically as is (although plans show reinforced fabric mats over the concrete armoring in the creek banks). Edwards described the work as “smoothing and shaping.”
       Council member Larry Small praised the three-entity plan. “It ties in quite well with the Fountain Creek visioning work,” he said. “It's an example of what can happen in other parts of the creek. This is a good place to start.”

Westside Pioneer article