April was quite the busy month here at the Greenway Foundation, as earth month always should be! Not only were we doing our regular thing working towards a cleaner South Platte River for all of Denver, but we also got to host and table at lots of awesome events through our SPREE programs. We take a great deal of pride in our environmental education department, and so when there is a chance to hang out with kids and talk about beavers we are all in! Here is a little recap of each event and well as some of the highlights of the events!
Beaver Bonanza - Cole Neighborhood Block Party
For our first event this month, we kicked it off with a Beaver Bonanza at the Cole Block Party April 16th Easter weekend with our partners! For the event, the SPREE team brought all of the Beaver goods to teach families of the Cole neighborhood all about these awesome creatures and more including our infamous beaver pelt, a replica of beavers skull, as well as pin the tail on the beaver! While pin the tail on the beaver is immensely fun, the biggest hit was our game "Whose Scat is That?" in which kids/families
Family Stewardship Day - Earth Day Trash Pick Up!
To celebrate Earth Day, the Greenway Foundation along with our partners hosted a trash clean up for families to volunteer to help clean up the Cherry Creek and South Platte Rivers: to say this event was a success is an understatement. There were over 250 volunteers working super hard to clean up our rivers! Some even went at far as to wade into the river and collect trash and debris that has accumulated in our rivers over the
After working super hard with our family volunteers, we enjoyed some more time by our super clean river playing games, creating crafts, and overall teaching about the importance of our rivers in Colorado! Families could check out our beaver pelts, old snakes skin, play "whose scat is that?", pin the tail on the beaver, win prizes, and more! We want to give a special thanks to not only our partners that help make this event possible, but of course the volunteers the came out and worked super hard to clean up the river!
Westwood Block Party - April 30th
To wrap up our April events, we finished off by tabling at the Westwood block party! With 75 attendees, Chompers and all the usual suspects were there to help teach families all about the important creatures that call the South Platte River home! Of course pin the tail on the beaver and "Whose Scat is That?" were hits among the kids, but we also saw loads of incredible crafts being made and prizes being won! It was so awesome to finish up our April events in the Westwood neighborhood and our SPREE team has a blast chatting with families and teaching kids about our wonderful South Platte River and all the things you can find in it.
Overall we want to give a big thank you so our partners for putting on these awesome events for us to participate in! Community is so important, and this month at Greenway we really got to feel the power of our community! If you didn't make it to an event keep an eye on our social media for info on more events coming up!
Happy Earth Day everyone! Each year, on the 22nd of April the world takes a moment to stop, reflect, and appreciate this place we are so lucky to call home. Maybe you spent time in the outdoors, in an urban park or maybe adventuring throughout the beautiful mountains, or maybe reminisced on old outdoor excursions through looking at old photos. Either way, it is important that on days like today, you not only enjoy this place we call home, but also take time to reflect and think about your own relationship with nature and the world around us. That's why at the Greenway Foundation, on this earth day, we are encouraging a deeper dive into what does it really mean to call this planet home? And what does it really mean to celebrate Earth?
In a wake of daunting environmental issues and potential climate anxiety - it is hard to think about what the cascading impact of individual action is. And as a bustling society here in the United States, we forget that we can have individual relationships with nature that are important to explore. It is easy to feel far away from it at times, or maybe pushed a side. It can be easy to forget that we are nature, and that it is good to care about the world and believe in change, even when there are a lot of variables out of most individuals control. But at the Greenway Foundation, we have always believed in the power of community, the power of the integration of natural and urban settings, and the power of curiosity. That is why we can't stop talking about Denver parks, because it shows that nature is never too far! Our SPREE programs works to evoke curiosity in children about the world around them - and we do this because we know that individual certainly can make a large difference.
As this earth day comes to a close and the sun starts to set, maybe pull out a journal and take some moments to reflect on your own relationship with nature, and maybe why we are lucky to have our Earth, this place we call home.
Tuesday was quite the exciting day for The Greenway Foundation since we finally got to hear from the teams that participated in this year's Clean Water Challenge. Each year the Greenway Foundation and other partners/sponsors challenges undergraduate students to engineer a proposed solutions to an issue impacting Colorado waterways. This year, we got to hear from two teams of seniors from the Colorado School of Mines who gave presentations about their proposed solutions to this years challenge; how to reduce pollutants from Colorado waterways.
Reducing E.coli levels in Cherry Creek - Team "Water" You Doing?
of E.coli frequently exceeds the state recreational standard of 126 CFU/100mL. When levels exceed this standard, waterways are no longer safe for recreational use for humans, pets, and other animals. Their design was a combined media filtration and UV system set to reduce E.coli levels to less than the state recreational standard. As shown above, the system this team designed is a passive treatment system that utilizes pre-existing infrastructure that would house the entire system. Scattered throughout the Cherry Creek River is these lock structures that adds infrastructure to be used as retaining walls for the system.
Their design utilizes physical vertical filtration methods by running water through a granular media. For their testing, '"Water" you doing?' used sand as their media of choice - but there is still further testing to be done to determine ideal media for system. Water enters the system through openings at top of lock structure. As the water percolates vertically through the media filtration system it will eventually reach the secondary part of the system which treats the contaminated water with a UV light, and then the water can exit the system into the greater Cherry Creek/Confluence Park area. Through testing the system with the Quanti-Tray system for measurements and four different trial groups, all containing greater than the state recreational standard for E.coli, this group found their system to be effective at removing E.coli from waterways to objective standard.
In general, they found that most of the removal of E.coli occurred at the UV treatment stage; however, with lower flow rates, that granular sand media is able to remove more E.coli from the sample. While the results from the testing are quite promising and exciting, to make this project fully feasible, the group suggested doing further testing on different types of media and UV system, develop systems for backwashing media and for instances of high flow rates. However, we thought their re-use of pre-existing infrastructure to house their system and using low impact passive water treatments to be very innovative!
Mitigating Nutrient Pollution in Sloan's Lake - Team N&P
The second team we got to here from was team "N&P", who decided to focus their solution on mitigating Nitrogen and Phosphorous levels in Sloan's Lake in Denver. This group wanted to focus on this issue/location because Sloan's like is an important ecological system for Denver waterways, heavily used for recreation, and frequently experiences eutrophication events, and even at times has to be closed due to dangerous levels of excessive nutrients in the system. Eutrophication and nutrient pollution are very dynamic and complex issues that are happening too frequently in bodies of water all over the world, because of this they can be quite daunting to try to solve.
water column. So Team N&P designed a paddle wheel device, that will travel across the surface of Sloan's lake, using paddles on either side to provide that aeration or mixing to de-stratify Sloan's Lake and make it safe for recreational use year-round. The device, as shown below, would also be connected to SMART software technology that would allow the wheel to self-navigate and connect to docking stations located in low-populated areas around the lake.
One of the most interesting and exciting things about this proposed solution is that is utilizes solar panels to charge and power the device to function throughout the lake. The group also suggested that their paddle device is scalable and transferable to other lakes throughout Colorado making it have the potential to be useful in other lakes, other than just Sloan's Lake.
It was so exciting to hear about these innovative and interesting solutions to dealing with pollution in our waterways! However, only one team could win this years challenge. This year's clean water challenge was a little different since we left the voting up to the audience! The audience voted on two things, their favorite solution, and the solution that would have the greatest impact on Colorado waterways. The winner of audience favorite; Team N&P with their paddle wheel device to mitigate nutrient pollution in Sloan's Lake! Finally, the winner of project to have the greatest impact on Colorado waterways; Team "'Water' you doing?" with their combined filtration and UV system to remove E.coli from Confluence park! Glad everyone was able to experience a victory this challenge, and we will see you next year!
Beavers are one of the things we talk a lot about in our SPREE programs, and they are awesome because they are ecosystem engineers, in that they significantly alter their environments and greater landscapes, which greatly impacts other species who rely on quality wetlands environments for survival.
and beaver lodges, so beavers are extremely important for the productivity and quality of wetland ecosystems. By reshaping their physical environment, beavers impact resource availability within ecosystems for other species, making them a keystone species. Depending on where beavers decide to build their dams/lodges will determine and define the greater wetland ecosystem. This is because these structures can change the flow of available nutrients for other species, which can have both positive and negative ecological impacts, but overall the presence of beavers is a happy sign for wetlands!
However, like anything with nature, it is all a balancing act. While beavers are incredibly important animals, this does not mean they don’t cause conflict when it comes to humans. Furthermore, beavers being a Keystone species means that deviations in beaver populations have cascading ecological impacts on other species within that wetland ecosystem. In Colorado currently, Beaver populations are very abundant and starting to have adverse effects on the relationship between urban settings and beaver ecological function.
In dealing with the relationship between humans and beavers, it is important to strive for a symbiotic relationship that utilizes adaptive and proactive approaches to dealing with beaver urban destruction. Approaches like putting up barriers, using sand paint, or other natural repellents to make it so unideal situations can be avoided between beavers and humans is an approach I know Chompers would appreciate!. This national beaver day be sure to take a moment to appreciate these wonderful creatures, and keep your eyes peeled in the parks along the South Platte River for Chompers and his other fun friends!
Also don't forget the month of April is all about giving SPREE! Help us educate more Denver Kids about cool creatures like beavers by donating here or look out for opportunities to volunteer at one of our upcoming events!
Each day this week campers explored new fields of science and how they relate to our South Platte River through experiments, lessons, crafts, games, and so much more.
On Monday we were all introduced to Chompers and his SPREE Force. His right-clawed-man Crusher helped teach us about Hydrology, the study of water! We learned about what happens to our environment when it rains, and got to go critter crawling in the South Platte River where the precipitation ends up. At the end of the day we all worked together to defeat the Trash Monster by picking up trash in our game Storm Drain Tag!
On Tuesday, although rainy, we still got to get in some ROCKING Geology crafts. With the help of Roxy the Raccoon and Earth Dude, some more of Chomper's friends, we learned about the importance of some rocks in the history of Colorado. We found, named, and painted our rock best friends then had bunches of fun in our free time when it wasn’t raining.
On Wednesday, with our head in the clouds we all learned about flying animals and the study of weather. Our Meteorology and Ornithology experts then headed to critter crawl to identify any clouds, birds, or other critters we could find. After a quick snowstorm in the morning campers were all able to identify the clouds then warm up and play outside all afternoon.
On Thursday, this Field Day we became Biologists and leveled up our knowledge of mountain lions, eagles, t-rexs, bats, bears, and beavers to name a few. All together the campers were able to stretch out to the height of a T-Rex! And by the afternoon we caught a record number of crawdads for the week.
On Friday, for our last day of camp we called on H2O Joe and his fish friend Flo to help us become Botanists. We created plant seed bombs to help more of Colorado’s native plants take root as well as guides to identify them. Then, on our nature hike we were then able to use the guides to identify some plants that already live in Johnson Habitat Park. Lastly, at graduation we all came together to talk about what an awesome week of camp we had and recap all the scientists that we can become.
For the month of April, the Greenway Foundation is launching a fundraising campaign for our SPREE programs. SPREE brings thousands of children to the South Platte River every year to create unique experiences in our urban outdoor areas and teach environmentally focused topics. By utilizing nature as a teacher, we can create positive connections between children and natural spaces, experience new things outside (like holding crayfish), and have lots of fun while doing it!
However, in order to ensure that cost isn't a barrier and to make our programs more accessible to all we are asking help from our community this April! GivingSPREE is all about supporting SPREE programs so we can teach more and more children about the beautiful and important South Platte River! If you're interested in donating, check out these slides below that breakdown what your donation will do for SPREE programs as well as some gifts you'll receive from us for your generous donation!
Unlisted above, donations of $350 can provide full scholarship to a child for a week at summer camp! If you'd like to donate, click the link here or check our website. The donation minimum is $5, but if you are unable to financially donate, look out for opportunities to volunteer with us! And let the givingSPREE commence!
Spring is in the air! Can you smell it? There is so much to be grateful for, and excited about at the start of spring. Shy flora is starting to come out of their shells. Maybe you’ve seen some bugs and creatures crawling across the sidewalk, or some dogs playing in parks. But one thing we should all be grateful for as spring starts to come, is the systems and facilities that allow the city of Denver’s Department of Transportation (DOTI) to manage the stormwater that falls in the South Platte River Watershed.
In Denver, our spring tends to be full of snowstorms or precipitation events with a fast melt time, leaving high volumes of water stuck on our urban impermeable surfaces, and unless properly managed, sub-urban flooding and highly polluted water can threaten our cities and neighborhoods. Stormwater management is crucial in urban environments like the city of Denver because precipitation cannot naturally filter through soil systems like they would in natural environments. These impermeable surfaces create an environment in which precipitation accumulates pollutants that can adversely impact societal, ecological and city health/well-being. Furthermore, since stormwater goes directly back into the nearest body of water, the health of our rivers and streams can be negatively impacted by improperly managed stormwater. Therefore, the main purpose of stormwater management is to separate the pollutants from the water before reintroducing that water back into the natural systems (rivers, streams, etc.), while also controlling the direction and flow of stormwater - to prevent flooding or detrimental erosion events.
In urban areas, stormwater is most likely going to be contaminated by bacterial pollutants like E. Coli, which is caused by fecal matter entering waterways. As E.Coli levels have risen in the South Platte River in recent years, proper/effective stormwater management becomes even more crucial in order to conserve and restore the South Platte River, and all the species and urban/ecological systems that rely on the health of our River. However, fecal matter is not the only pollutant to be concerned with when it comes to stormwater contamination.
As stormwater flows across the surface, it can pick up and carry with it pollutants that could end up in our waterways - unless properly managed. This can be composed of fecal matter, as well as pesticides/insecticides/fertilizers, debris, sediments, and other things that can cause damage to environments. The city and county of Denver utilizes stormwater management techniques that are naturally inspired; like retention ponds, grassy swalls, and other types of buffers. As water quality and environmental sustainability becomes more of a necessity, Denver aims to utilize green infrastructure (GI) in the stormwater management plans moving forward.
In 2020, the city of Denver set forth 24 sustainability goals in 12 related areas, one of those areas being water quality. The goal is to make all rivers, lakes, and streams swimmable and fishable. In order to achieve this goal, stormwater management must continue to innovate and create sustainable ways of managing stormwater and all weather events. However, it is not all on DOTI to manage stormwater and improve water quality and health of our rivers and streams. Everyday actions and making environmentally conscious choices can help reduce the amount of pollution and debris that stormwater can collect throughout our city. Check out these infographics below to see other ways to support proper stormwater management and protect the beautiful South Platte River!
To kick off our 2022 winter sports events, our High School Greenway Leadership Corps started off by heading to Downtown Denver to go ice skating at Skyline Park. Everyone was wobbly at first, but we collectively decided that we‘d all at least try to skate. After many laps of holding onto the railing, Duilio (River Ranger intern) was skating around the rink like a pro! After a couple hours of fun, we decided to give back to our local parks (Fishback and Confluence park) by cleaning up trash while we headed back towards our vehicles.
Our February event was Snowboarding with Denver Parks and Rec at Ruby Hill Park. We started the day by getting all the necessary gear to have a successful snowboarding day. After getting all buckled into our boards, we slowly but surely made it down the hill, learning the basics from our DPR instructor. For those who wanted to up their skills a bit, our instructor took them up to a higher hill to practice more while the others continued practicing on the smaller hill.
Lastly, our March GLC was Snowshoeing with Denver Parks and Rec at Echo Lake Park! Once we got the chance to learn how to put on our snowshoes, we headed out to walk on and around the frozen lake. Because all of us were beginners at both snowshoeing and walking on frozen lakes.. our DPR instructors showed us exactly how safe it was by having us JUMP on the lake and look at the layers of ice underneath us. Afterwards, we hiked and raced each other in the snow! We got to experience some breathtaking views and even got to enjoy a nice warm cup of hot chocolate! It was a beautiful Colorado day, and we’re so thankful to DPR for providing us such awesome winter experiences!
The outdoor equity grant program (OEGP) is an exciting new opportunity for organizations that strive to increase the accessibility of the outdoors to underserved youth and communities, made possible by House Bill 21-1318, Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW), and the Colorado Lottery.
This grant is funded by the Colorado Lottery in hopes to protect our natural lands and create generations of environmental stewards. Check out the slide show below with more information, about the grant cycle!
If your interested in applying, or wanting to learn more about this exciting opportunity, check out Colorado Parks and Wildlife's OEGP page here, or connect with Lauren Truitt or Jared from Conservation Colorado with questions or requests for additional details. Applications are due April 8th! Lets support organizations that work to make Colorado outdoor spaces more equitable for all!
The SPREE team is so excited to announce our new staff of SPREE environmental educators for the year 2022!! Chompers, our beaver boss, worked hard the past few months to find and train our new educators, Jack, Jillian, Lexi, Sam, and Kim. The SPREE educators spent a week training with Chompers, learning all about our beautiful South Platte River, and studying the curriculum so we can teach young students of Denver about the river that connects us all. Here's some fun facts about our new educators and why they are excited to be a part of SPREE, but you can also find more information in their bio's on our staff page.