From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
If you wanted to make a really fun toy, you would first have to go through the relatively boring process of building a factory.
So, after a mundane afternoon of listening to all of the problems of how fixing Fountain Creek has to meet the needs of state water planning, funding challenges, water quality and flood control, the crowd of 40 elected officials and business people finally got to the fun stuff.
Jeff Shoemaker, executive director of the Greenway Foundation in Denver, told the group how to turn a $125 million investment over 40 years into $12 billion in economic development benefits.
Now that’s fun.
“We like to call it a 40-year overnight success,” Shoemaker told the group, assembled by the Southern Colorado Business Partnership at Pikes Peak International Raceway Wednesday. “A vision plan is only as valuable as its ability to be implemented.”
There are parallels between the current effort to fix Fountain Creek and the Greenway Foundation’s unceasing quest to improve the South Platte River through Denver.
In 1965, that reach of the South Platte was a miserable, forgotten waterway. Trash and sewage were dumped in it with little thought. That changed when Joe Shoemaker, Jeff’s father, convinced the state to create the Denver Urban Drainage District in 1974. The district provided the canvas for the Greenway Foundation — in partnership with government and the private sector — to paint the future of Lower Downtown Denver, now among Colorado’s most valuable real estate.
“And we’re just getting started,” Shoemaker said.
Fast forward to 2009.
A vision task force convinced the state to form the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which since has struggled simply to find a way to fund its own existence. The district is patterned after the Denver Urban Drainage District and encompasses Pueblo and El Paso counties. Other speakers throughout the afternoon had dwelt on the problems and challenges of fixing Fountain Creek, which periodically sends sheets of water Pueblo’s way compounded by development in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area.
They spoke about flood control, mitigation projects and the need to protect agriculture while serving growing municipal needs through projects like Southern Delivery System.
So far, it has been optimistic frustration.
“Fountain Creek has been an amenity for academics,” joked Larry Small, director of the Fountain Creek district, referring to the volumes of past studies, which largely gather dust on shelves.
Projects themselves — SDS, flood control and creek improvements — have brought several million dollars into the area, but much of it has been government-driven.
Meanwhile, the South Platte has grown rich on the back of flood control projects like Chatfield Dam, and draws thousands of people to the river through an ambitious network of parks and recreation activities, Shoemaker said.
“Everything we do has a water-quality component,” Shoemaker said.
That type of thinking can benefit Pueblo, said Eva Montoya, Fountain Creek board president and a Pueblo City Council member.
“We got many of our ideas from the Greenway Foundation,” she said, referring to a new wheel park that is being designed for Pueblo’s Historic East Side.