Overland Pond Park
By Casey Davenhill
Overland Pond Park Stewardship Partners
In June of 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved The Greenway Foundation’s grant application for $120,000 to be used for improvements at Overland Pond Park along the South Platte River Greenway in Denver. Efforts were immediately initiated to implement an enhancement plan for the Park that was/is the result of a significant collaborative vision of the Overland Park Neighborhood Association, SPREE and the design team of Merle Grimes, Kourtnie Harris and Deb Finch. Sadly, Merle was lost this past year but his 25 year vision for Overland Pond Park was so inspiring that it seemed as though he was still present and guiding the project.
The amount of repair, care and improvement at Overland was overwhelming. Cheatgrass and Chinese elm had taken over large areas of the Park, making large areas of this 7 acre amenity unattractive and inhospitable. Weeds become quite a barrier, especially to the students and teachers enjoying the SPREE (South Platte River Environmental Education) excursions. Control of the Cheatgrass occurred through the help of the County Sheriff’s Community Service crew and Urban Drainage and Flood Control District (UDFCD) directed their elm removal and replacement efforts to the area, removing over 200 cubic yards of dead, dying and weedy elm trees.
Suddenly, Overland Pond Park could see its River! A view that had been blocked for years opened up and the ‘montane’ region, one of the key features of the Park is its presentation of the ‘eco-regions’ of Colorado, became a popular pathway to the River. The riparian zone, or ‘eco-region’, along the River became accessible and part of the outdoor classroom experience at Overland Pond Park. Stone steps were provided to create safe access to the S. Platte for water studies and many fly-fishermen found their way to the River too. Even cyclists slowed down to enjoy the view.
In addition to the cleanup work that was done, two old wooden seating structures were removed and replaced with stone benches and a new stone amphitheater on the Pond. The yellow-jackets will miss the old rotted wood benches, but no one else will. Another wooden structure built into the hill between the Pond and the River was removed and will be graced with a memorial bench take its place honoring Merle Grimes as the original designer of the Park and a great friend to the River.
The Overland Pond Park stewards are also anxious to start another season of education and restoration at the Pond. Once again, the SPREE River Rangers will be engaged in a program that includes ecological studies and practical labor to understand and improve Overland Pond Park and other sites along the River. The Rangers will assist with the long-term monitoring of native vegetation, migratory birds and other animals. The River Rangers may even have to try their luck with a fishing pole as they study water quality in the River and the Pond.
The vision of Overland Pond Park as a “classroom without walls” …as a park of intrinsic ecological value which offers opportunities for interdisciplinary, environmental and conservation studies…as a place where students can learn the importance of understanding and protecting Colorado’s fragile land and wildlife has been revitalized. Acknowledgement and thanks are owed to Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), the Overland Park Neighborhood Association, SPREE and UDFCD for their outstanding commitment to improving this unique urban amenity.