The Poudre Whitewater Park is so Much More

Theresa Rose

Beginning in August, work will begin on a project referred to as The Poudre Whitewater Park.  In an interview with Matt Day, the Senior Landscape Architect for the Park Planning and Development of the City of Fort Collins, describes the Poudre Whitewater Park as part of a master plan that actually incorporates three master plans into the same area. The location will be east of College Avenue and north of the former power plant that now houses the CSU Energy Development Campus. Day says the Whitewater Park alone wouldn’t be cost-effective, since the river only carries enough flow for 35 to 45 days out of the year. As it has evolved, the plan combines stormwater management, maintenance of natural areas and a combination of park systems that include the Whitewater Park. Begun in 2013, the first order of business was to study the opportunities for an urban interface with the natural systems. The property has also undergone a historical review. The site is bordered by railroad tracks with the Union Pacific upstream and the Burlington Northern downstream, both of which have historical value.

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The Whitewater Park, categorized as Reach Three, will be one of the first projects built on the Community Capital Improvement Program (CCIP). Approved by City Council in 2014, CCIP will has provided 4 million dollars, nearly half of the projected 8.5 million dollars that the park is projected to cost.

One of the goals of the project is to return the area to a more natural state. In the 1860s, the old Coy Diversion was built to back up the water and force it down a corridor to facilitate irrigation. The new project will include removal of the concrete diversion structures and the restoration of the original channel, which will expand wildlife habitat, restore fish passage and allow for increased public access. The plan will also remove all of the asphalt from the industrial structures in the area. The north bank will be maintained as a natural area to encourage wildlife and add more diversity to the plant life, which now consists of cottonwoods, willows and invasive grass. The south bank will be developed into a more urban area with a focus on public access, including an overlook terrace and a pedestrian bridge. Vine Drive currently has no curb and gutter structure and no drainage. Improvements will include drainage, a parking lot and a bike lane.

Part of the plan is to flip the Poudre Trail to the north side of the river and build a passage under Linden Street for commuters. The current trail will be designated as a heritage trail, a slower-paced, urban interface with historical references.

The project has multiple uses. The plan for stormwater improvement will include digging under the College Avenue bridge in order to increase conveyance of river water and mitigate the over-topping of College Avenue in the event of another 100-year flood. Potential flood hazards in the area are currently being mapped and solutions discussed for further flood mitigation.

Day admits that funding is a challenge, and one potential source, the Impact Fees from house construction, don’t pay for projects like these. However, with 4 million dollars from CCIP, City of Fort Collins General Fund, Urban Renewal Authority, City of Fort Collins Park Planning & Development, City of Fort Collins Natural Areas, City of Fort Collins Stormwater and 2 million in charitable support from generous donors, the project is off to a good start.