Some of Denver’s most expensive real estate properties will fall prey to bugs and bugs in a major Cherry Creek update.

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As Inga Gok and her energetic Belgian shepherd explore the newly-paved mudbanks along Cherry Creek, east of South Quebec Street, they are blissfully unaware of the expensive land they tread.

This one-mile stretch of the popular Cherry Creek Regional Trail, which is ridden non-stop by cyclists and runners, is nearing completion of a $ 16 million overhaul. That’s over $ 250 per linear inch.

Goku and her dog Hugo don’t mind such an expensive decision. They walk along the creek starting on Boulevard de Monaco almost every evening. A mile upstream from Quebec to Iliff Avenue, they watched the stream sink deeper and deeper into the canal, watched the bike path hang precariously over the clipped banks, and watched the vegetation slowly melt on the banks and drown the stream.

“It was a great canyon,” Gock said at the end of a recent sweltering Colorado evening, arms outstretched northwest towards Quebec and southeast towards Cherry Creek Dam.

Frequent users like Goku are absolutely right, ”replies Barbara Chongtua, engineer and driving force. Mile High Flood disputes with six different agencies to make this one mile long overhaul.

She’ll even go to Goka better.

“It was a mini Grand Canyon,” laughs Chongtua, who said the Cherry Creek mile from Iliff downstream to Quebec is one stretch of a 40-mile trail from downtown Denver to Franktown in need of full excavation.

The winding trail will eventually stretch for several more miles to Castlewood Canyon State Park. This was the route that the Indians traveled on water, fish and animals on the shore, and then the route of the pioneers during the gold rush. It was one of the first key spokes in the center of the Denver subway bike path, emanating from Confluence Park.

Bikers ride the Cherry Creek Trail on Monday, June 14, 2021. By the summer of 2021, a mile of trail and river bed will be restored, with a total cost of about $ 16 million for reconstruction. (Olivia Sun, Colorado Sun)

Water shrinks canyons to make a living. In densely populated urban and suburban areas like Cherry Creek Drive South, engineers protecting expensive open spaces, bike lanes, bridges and roads need to find new jobs for water. Over the years, a stream in the area, as it gained height, created rifts that sprayed water upward and then plunged strongly into the muddy bottom of the canal, creating washboards that looked like cars on a gravel road. Each new period of high water caused the spray to rise higher, and the falling water plunged deeper into the mud. Eventually the channel was carved 20 feet below the top of the banks.

“If you were driving south on Cherry Creek, you wouldn’t even see the water from the car, that’s how deep it is,” Chuntua said.

Denver Water, Denver Parks & Recreation and Arapahoe County Open Spaces worried about the loss of valuable assets as a result of landslides on the clipped shores. The ecology has also become a mess. The shadows of the trees toppled over. Native trees and shrubs, accustomed to dropping their roots several feet down to obtain water in the coastal transition zone, no longer had enough straws to drink. The runoff left little other than sand and opportunistic invasive species ranging from bindweed to thistle.

“Everything else, from Cherry Creek Dam to Confluence Park, hasn’t been that bad,” Chongtua said. By 2017, it was time to turn a few mentions in the master plan from years ago into a fully funded proposal for synchronized dance with heavy equipment on the proverbial mile.

Starting in Quebec and heading southeast, the banks are now carefully sorted and terraced from the main channel. The canal itself was reinforced with massive boulders stuck on specially designed steps to prevent dredging during future floods. A new footpath on the north bank will complement the concrete cycle path on the south bank, with new bridges at four points along the mile. Excavation works are completed in August or September.

Some plantings have already begun, but the finishing touches to the large trees will not take place until next year as landscape designers check how the water table behaves after renovation. Cotton groves and local grasses, which grow during periodic floods, will go next to the stream.

“There are herbs that like wet feet and herbs that like dry feet,” Chuntua said.

In addition, workers will be driving thousands of willow stakes carved from dense groves downstream of Quebec. The stakes grow into bushes saving banks as they search for a water table. Cutting willow trees a short walk downstream reduces the carbon footprint of the entire project.

Above this transition zone, at the highest points where bikers and pedestrians walk, there will be non-native, shade trees whose root systems do not need to be flooded.

The Mile High Flood District had to collect agencies spanning a mile and find the money. Denver Water smoothed out one of the more difficult issues, Chongtua said by donating 10 acres of land to Denver Parks and the Arapaho County Open Space to operate as they see fit after the excavators leave. The money came from at least seven sources, most of which came from the Denver borough of urban drainage and flood control.

Inga Gok walks with her 4-year-old Belgian Malinois Hugo down Cherry Creek on Monday, June 14, 2021. The mile trail and riverbed will be rehabilitated in the summer of 2021, with a total cost of approximately $ 16 million for reconstruction. (Olivia Sun, Colorado Sun)

According to Jeff Shoemaker, director of the Greenway Foundation, a non-profit organization that has long been the organizer and advocate for the modernization of the river subway, this elaborate plan is a significant improvement for one of the most used creek corridors.

The separate soft-surface pedestrian lane is a big upgrade for those fearful of the tough cycle path, where passengers and seasoned trainers ignore the 15mph speed rules, Shoemaker said. “This means my daughter and my granddaughters can enjoy Cherry Creek without looking over my shoulder every three seconds,” he said.

There used to be landfills at the intersection in Quebec, Shoemaker said. Excavations might have found chaos, tantalizing artifacts, or both. The excavators did remove tons of concrete rubble and debris, as well as old sewer and water pipes, Chuntua said. Alas, no adorable ancient human bones or dinosaurs or gold bars from the overturned Wells Fargo wagons.

The improvements in flood control and ecological diversity are “amazing,” Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker is even optimistic that the next mile of fishing will soon be possible on the next mile – an elusive target for either the erratic flow of Cherry Creek or the South Platte River Industrial Corridor through central Denver… Shoemaker said the waters in both main streams could be better than their reputation for carp havens, and the restored Cherry Creek Mile could be a good example.

Chuntua would only settle for a “good try” when it comes to much more than catching cancer. The flow that engineers release from the Cherry Creek Dam, two and a half miles to the southeast, ranges from “3 cubic feet per second to 100 cubic feet per second, and sometimes back to zero,” she lamented.

Prize-winning species such as trout need more stable streams and deeper, cooler bodies of water to grow. The new section of the creek is capable, with pools built into the altered canal, but engineers and conservationists will have to somehow agree on stronger, more sustainable freshwater flows.

Meanwhile, visitors like Goku and Hugo are already finding their way down a well-kept hallway, ignoring the orange hurricane fence designed to keep them out. Goka’s only concern is that no one will allow the houses located on the north bank to creep closer to the precious open space.

“We live in Cherry Creek North and we come here for this,” Goku said, trying to rip a six-meter stick out of Hugo’s determined jaws. “Because Cherry Creek doesn’t even have a small park.”

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