GET TO KNOW YOUR GREENWAY: OVERLAND POND PARK
By: JJ Clark
SPREE Staff Writer
Take a fishing pole and a picnic to enjoy a day out at Overland Pond Park this month. Overland Pond Park offers an escape from the city without ever leaving it.
Along with the pond itself, the banks are lush with native plants and signs of animal life. Blue Grama (Colorado’s state grass) is abundant and evidence of recent beaver activity marks many of the cottonwood trees around the pond. The pond is home to rainbow trout, carp, blue gill, and other species of fish. Cormorants, herons, and egrets often feed at the pond and turtles and frogs have been spotted here as well.
Overland Pond is a reclaimed gravel mining pit that was redesigned as a learning park along the banks of the South Platte River. The native plantings are a reminder of what the Colorado prairie might have looked like before human activity. Serving as a habitat sanctuary for migratory birds and other South Platte River fauna, trees that fall are left down to provide homes for small animals and nutrients for future pond life.
In addition to being the home for the 5th grade excursion program, Overland Pond is also the host to the Family Fishing Day Water Festival programs each year. Fishing for Kids programming is provided for SPREE Schools through a partnership with the Colorado Division of Wildlife and ELK (Environmental Learning for Kids). For this free educational fishing event, the pond is stocked with rainbow trout, and the students are taught basic casting, fish anatomy, pond ecology, and fish identification and handling lessons. Students enjoy a day of catch and release fishing and get to keep their fishing pole at the end of the day.
We had a blast becoming herpetologists and studying reptiles and amphibians!
First we learned about some of the cool adaptations that reptiles have by dressing up as one! We dressed up some campers as rattlesnakes and learned that they have some very cool features such as scaly skin, forked tongues, jaws that can unhinge, and heat-sensing vision! Next we acted out shedding our reptilian skin by putting glue on our hand and peeling it off after it dried! Did you know that many reptiles eat their skin after they shed it? It's full of nutrients! Then, we made two reptilian crafts- a turtle and a snake!
We got to dress up as a frog and learned about lots of amazing adaptations and facts! Then, we played a game as salamanders. We had to try and steal each other's tails! Did you know if a salamander loses its tail that it can grow it back? Next, we imagined our lives as amphibians and drew landscapes from an animal's perspective. Little things look a lot bigger when you are a tiny critter!
We were able to take a closer look at these two similar creatures groups by making a big venn diagram and sorting out features and animal pictures into the two groups. The main differences between them are that amphibians usually have wet and smooth skin and they go through metamorphosis in their life cycle. Reptiles have scaled skin, and they usually just start small and grow bigger and bigger through their lives without much change. Both types of animals are cold blooded, usually come from eggs, and often share similar habitats.
Once we were experts, we made some acrostic poems about some of the animals we learned about!
And of course we spent some time exploring the Cherry Creek!
By: J.J. Clark
SPREE Staff Writer
Just downstream of the Downtown Denver Skate Park sits City of Cuernavaca Park. The Flour Mill Lofts stand between one of the park’s many open spaces and the railroad line that follows the Platte Valley for much of downtown. The South Platte River trail connects this renewed industrial residence to campgrounds in the foothills and hundreds of miles of urban recreation and adventure.
Several pedestrian bridges that resemble the iron train tresses over the Cherry Creek cross the South Platte River while rolling Kentucky Blue Grass hills and public stone sculptures offer themselves to picnickers. On the north side of the river there is an expansive field that can host soccer, frisbee, or a weekend get together. This field is adjacent to a substantial picnicking shade structure with views of downtown.
The city is omnipresent at the top of the steep riverbanks, but a short descent quiets the hum. Small dirt and stone trails lead off the concrete bike path and down to the water. This time of year the banks are full of sticks and debris left from the recent spring runoff. There is a meadow blooming with prairie grasses and shaded by newly leaved Cottonwood trees. The dirt paths by the river tuck beneath the pedestrian bridges and give a sense of solitude in the midst of coal trains, interstates, and condos.
On these dirt trails there is a sense of exploring something secret. Just a few steps off the trail, through the green seeds and stems of the native grasses, are signs of urban wilderness and undisturbed nature. Numerous trees have been reduced to stumps by beaver and huge logs appear to be aged by time and the weather.
The seeds of the Cottonwoods summon spring on the banks of the South Platte. Denver’s buildings pierce the blue sky as interstate commuters pass. At City of Cuernavaca Park, you can see Denver’s industrial rail lines, urban renewal, water recreation, urban wilderness and solitude, all in the shade of a Cottonwood tree and Denver’s unmistakable skyline.