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!
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.
I now have the honor of working for Speaker Alec Garnett at the Colorado Capitol where I am learning more about health policy through the Joe Shoemaker Fellowship. As I approach the end of my time here at CU Denver, I aspire to attend the Colorado School of Public Health to earn an MPH in Health Systems, Management and Policy to have the tools to tackle the healthcare inequities in Colorado. Thank you to everyone who has helped me throughout my academic career!
The TGF team is excited to be working with Daniel this semester on all things River related!
Being a River Ranger isn’t always easy, but it's SO rewarding. Halfway through my junior year of high school I found out about the greenway foundation through my schools newsletter. In the fall I participated in a virtual internship from February to May. I was sad for my internship to end but then was informed that the SPREE offered a paid internship for the summer.
Once I applied and went through the interview process I was finally hired and excited to spend my summer at a kids camp.
In order to be the best possible River Ranger it’s important to prioritize self care before every shift. I learned that getting enough sleep, hydrating, eating a good breakfast, and doing one I like everyday before my shift helped me maintain a positive attitude. Almost everyday consists of being out in 90+ weather and it’s important to take care of yourself if you want to be able to teach kids outside. Taking care of kids was new to me but the SPREE Team gave me all necessary tips to keep children safe while having fun.Before teaching lessons on my own , I got the proper training to learn how to be the best environmental educator possible. Learning the difference between educational vs advocacy or the different learning styles are some of the few things I got to learn to be an educator. With this in mind, every shift river rangers get two 30 min prep times to prepare materials, write scripts, test experiments etc. Even if a lesson is physically prepared, it's important for river rangers to also be mentally prepared and excited to teach their lesson. Critter crawl is another structured activity that is done everyday. Critter crawl consists of river rangers taking campers down to the south platte river and catching macro-invertebrates. Some campers may be too little or just scared to flip a rock and river rangers are there to help assist campers in catching the critters.
An amazing part of this job is all the amount of free time in the day to allow kids to do pretty much any outdoor/indoor activity. Free time is the perfect time to have fun and get to know the campers a bit more on a more personal level. Playing on the playground, painting, bug catching are just a few popular activities. Personally , my favorite part about being a river ranger was getting the chance to be a kid again and just play on the playground with other kids. It was amazing that I got the chance to work while having fun. Most importantly, when things get tough, I get support from my other coworkers daily. It was nice to be able to know I can work around people who genuinely care about me.
As summer was coming to an end, I was once again sad my time with SPREE was wrapping up, or so I thought. I loved my job so much and decided to ask SPREE staff if there was any way possible for me to continue to work for a foundation I truly love. Thanks to my coworkers, I was able to work during the school year and become an ambassador for the greenway foundation. Being a river ranger taught me life skills such as networking, public speaking, time management and much much more.
This week kicked off the Spring High School River Rangers teaching days by participating in our March SPREE After School! For the first week of March SPREE After School, two of our River Rangers, Tori & Hailey observed our SPREE educators as they taught the kiddos about animal shelters & practiced our observation skills.
Tori, a returning River Ranger and previous SPREE camper helped teach Hailey how to critter crawl.. leading to Hailey catching her FIRST crawdad ever!! BIG moment in the SPREE world! No one forgets their first crawdad catch.
We are so excited for the rest of our four River Rangers to participate in SPREE After School this month, and for many more big SPREE moments for both them and the kiddos!
To celebrate Black History Month, TGF is highlighting some of the inspiring black leaders in the Denver community, striving to make lasting change within environmental education, conservation, and beyond. When researching for this project, I came across Sandra Douglas, referenced by many who have worked with her as Miss Sandy. As the Community Connector for the Cole Neighborhood, SPREE has worked with her in the past to make outdoor education accessible to this community. When I had the pleasure of speaking with Miss Sandy about her work, I could hear the sounds of a busy kitchen in the background. Sure enough, she told me “Sorry honey, I’m busy cooking up a hundred pounds of potatoes”. At that point, I knew I was talking to someone who cared deeply about this community and that I could not tell her story better than she could. Keep reading to learn more of Miss Sandy’s story, in her words.
The Water Connection (TWC) is excited to announce the pilot of an instream trash removal device-- the Nautilus! This half-scale prototype will passively collect trash along the north side of the Cherry Creek between Blake Street and Market Street. Nautilus is being serviced regularly by Mile High Flood District and ArborForce to collect valuable information regarding the device’s function and what types of debris are being collected. Other partners for this pilot include ClayDean Electric, who built this version of Nautilus, as well as Denver Parks and Recreation and Naranjo Civil Constructors.
“Like many urban areas, keeping trash out of our waterways in Denver has been a constant challenge” said Devon Buckels, Director of The Water Connection. “Every year, local non-governmental organizations and the Mile High Flood District spend $1.5 million removing trash from the South Platte River by hand, one piece at a time. There has to be a better solution. This is 2020!”
The concept for the Nautilus design was created by two students at Metropolitan State University of Denver, Mara Maxwell and TJ DiTallo, as part of TWC’s Clean River Design Challenge (CRDC) held during the 2015-2016 academic year. CRDC is a yearlong competition that challenges teams of undergraduate students to design and build a scale model of a device to be placed in a waterway in Metro Denver to remove trash and debris. Along with being efficient and effective, these devices also have to meet numerous other criteria: they must not negatively impact the flood plain, they must be safe for recreational users and wildlife, and they must have an educational and/or art aspect to the design to engage passersby in the community.
Trash in our waterways is not only an eyesore, but it can also harm wildlife and degrade water quality. TWC is also pursuing other trash capture approaches, such as storm drain filtration devices, for collecting trash before it enters our rivers and streams. The 15 storm drain filters in Metro Denver collected 3,960 pounds of pollutants in less than two years.
Next time you are biking or hiking the Cherry Creek path, stop by to visit the Nautilus!
To learn more about this project, email the Director of The Water Connection, Devon Buckels at firstname.lastname@example.org
Greenway Foundation Supporters and Advocates:
Colorado Trout Unlimited (CTU) and The Greenway Foundation (TGF) are pleased to announce that the Colorado Trout Unlimited (CTU) 2020 River Stewardship Award is being awarded to TGF’s Executive Director, Jeff Shoemaker. As Executive Director of The Greenway Foundation, Jeff has led a true revival of Denver’s urban waterways for close to four decades. From promoting parks and responsible development along greenways, to raising funds for the Chatfield Reservoir environmental pool benefitting South Platte River stream flows, to developing environmental education programs that engage thousands of Denver youth every year, The Greenway Foundation, under Jeff’s leadership, has embodied the concept of river stewardship for an urban community.
The CTU River Stewardship Award will be presented during the course of CTU’s 2020 Stewardship Gala on Thursday evening, March 5, 2020. This annual gathering at Mile High Station in Denver is a fun evening of food and drink and raising funds for Colorado TU’s conservation work around our beautiful state!
If you are interested in being a part of this special evening honoring Jeff and TGF, the CTU Stewardship Gala regularly sells out early! Learn more by visiting this link. We hope to see you on March 5, 2020 as we celebrate Colorado’s rivers and fisheries and honor Jeff Shoemaker as CTU’s 2020 River Stewardship Award winner!