Denver, CO

Half a billion dollars will flow to South Platte River

David Heitz
The Greenway Foundation

The City and County of Denver is serious about cleaning up the South Platte River.

On Thursday, Mayor Michael Hancock announced a memo of understanding with several stakeholders to invest more than half a billion dollars into the South Platte River. “With the South Platte River Project, we intend to make the largest ever investment – over $550 million – in the restoration and conservation of the South Platte River ecosystem,” Hancock said in a news release. “This is an infrastructure investment that will drive economic opportunity through equity and the creation of 7,300 good-paying local jobs, support our neighborhoods through flood mitigation and creating new green space, and take climate action and repair environmental justice.”

Gov. Jared Polis also praised the project. “The South Platte River is a critical watershed at the heart of the Denver metropolitan area. This historic investment will restore and protect the South Platte while also creating good-paying jobs and promoting environmental equity across communities bordering this vital waterway. I’m thrilled to see this collaborative kick off and look forward to seeing the South Platte transform into a healthier, cleaner and more sustainable watershed for all of Denver.”

Federal, state, regional, local, and private money will be used to “restore degraded ecosystem conditions along 6.5 miles of the South Platte River, improve river recreation and implement flood risk management protection in certain areas including Weir Gulch and Harvard Gulch,” according to the news release.

The project will result in “the creation of new green spaces and recreation amenities; and take climate action and repair environmental justice through the conservation of this treasured outdoor space, reduce the temperatures of the water and mitigate heat islands in some of most underserved neighborhoods.”

Council approves Greenway Foundation contract

The City Council this week approved a contract with The Greenway Foundation to advocate for the betterment of the river. The city added $175,000 and three years to the contract, which now has a capacity of $1,364,000.

The Department of Finance will manage the contract, which serves several city departments. “The city and The Greenway Foundation have a long and successful history of partnership to achieve a shared mission of reclaiming, redeveloping, and protecting the South Platte River (and surrounding tributaries) as a unique environmental, recreational, cultural, scientific and historical amenity,” according to a city staff report. “Through this contract, the departments of Transportation and Infrastructure, Parks and Recreation, and Public Health and Environment negotiate individual task orders for work including, but not limited to, advocacy for federal funding on behalf of projects related to water quality, ecosystem restoration, and flood risk reduction; environmental education and community outreach programs; and any additional grant support.”

The city did not put the contract out for competitive bid. It has had a long relationship with The Greenway Foundation, according to a city staff report.

“Since 1974 the Greenway Foundation has led efforts to reclaim, enhance and protect the South Platte River and its tributaries,” the staff report explains. “They have constructed, on behalf of the city, over 100 miles of interconnected hiking and biking trails; have created 20-plus parks and natural areas (10 from former landfill dump sites) and led programs that have improved the health of watershed and engaged Denver’s residents, especially youth.”

They are uniquely qualified to win the contract, the staff report contends. “They know the South Platte River better than any organization. The Greenway Foundation, through their 50 years of work and experience, continue to be a ‘go to’ organization for all those that care about the South Platte River and its tributaries and continue to show an ability to advocate for the city, its projects related to its urban waterways, and help develop and implement the vision and continuity needed to improve the city’s waterways and the subsequent health of its residents. “

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

Denver, CO

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