South Platte River, Denver

By Phil Nicodemus

The South Platte River, which runs smack dab through the heart of downtown Denver, is the epitome of forgotten rivers. Just outside the city, coming from the south, the river takes a natural course, meandering through miles and miles of the impressive wilderness, a part of Pike National Forest. Once the Platte meets Denver, however, the river stops looking so majestic and turns into an urban obstacle. Or at least, it did, until the people of Denver decided  to drop a whopping $30 million to transform it into a city feature to be proud of.

The project began in it’s planning stages in 2013, and over the next 15+ years plans to restore the river throughout its course through Denver. This plan, dubbed ‘River Vision’ isn’t just a plan to plop down some more parks and plant a few trees here and there. The very shallow, wide river is being channelized and dredged in places to restore a more natural river course with distinct features like pools, runs, and riffles; things that create a diversity of habitat for fish in particular. Native trees and grasses are being planted along the course of the river to help stabilize the banks and soak up excess water during periods of heavy rain or snowmelt, replacing ugly grey boulders and gravel. Literal landfill sites turned into education and recreational facilities. Even the golf courses are to become Audubon sites for high quality bird habitat.

And while not every city has the relative blank slate to work with as Dever does with the South Platte, seeing as how Denver is consistently ranked one of the the healthiest cities in one of the healthiest states in the nation, perhaps the other metropolises would take heed to follow Denver’s example. It’s no coincidence that some of the healthiest people in the county are notorious for their state’s environmental and conservation efforts, as well as their sheer abundance of park space. River Vision is a concerted effort by the people of Denver to not only increase recreational opportunities available in their city, but to demonstrate how man can live side by side with nature, for the benefit of all.

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