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Urban Waters Partnership

Westerly Creek Environmental Justice of the South Platte Watershed

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership for the South Platte River is co-led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. The South Platte River, which runs through Denver, Colorado, is an invaluable resource for drinking water, recreation and economic development, both upstream and within Denver. The South Platte River in Denver is primarily an industrial corridor with only three neighborhoods with direct access to the river, one of which is a Denver Housing Authority affordable housing complex. Because of the industrial character, many of the urban neighborhoods in proximity to the river are distressed.

Multiple Partnership members are involved in the Westerly Creek project which includes a stream restoration design for a new park. Westerly Creek is part of the larger South Platte watershed. This project uniquely engaged the impacted multi-cultural community for input, and featured a children’s design component, led by Earth Force, during which children from the community were able to provide their input on uses and what the creek should look like.

The park is in the East Colfax neighborhood in an environmental justice community rich with diversity. The area is home to recent immigrants that live in affordable housing sandwiched between two of the Greater Denver Area's premier sustainable living communities, Lowry and Stapleton. Language translation at the meetings ensured community-based input during the park design process. The first public meeting, held in March 2012, focused on the stream restoration design for Westerly Creek. The design is being funded with EPA Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Justice funding and is led by EPA Region 8's Urban Waters Team. Based on community input from both adults and the children, the draft design will explore:

  • a low-water creek crossing
  • small areas where park visitors can walk by the creek
  • an area where children can safely access and play in the creek

There will be limited use of turf with the use of native grasses in the upland areas, marshy and riparian areas along the creek, decking over a large culvert inlet to create a public space, areas where visitors can picnic, and new lighting.

In April 2012, a second community input meeting was held on the stream restoration design for Westerly Creek. Results from the first meeting in March, where the community voted on different elements were shared. The project team took the voting results and came up with three preliminary design concepts and melded them into one. The team presented the design concept to the community, and the community agreed to the concept with one minor change. They decided to have a bridge instead of a low-water crossing.

Design work was completed by Wenk and Associates under an EPA contract with SRA International.

This partnership project is being accomplished in conjunction with:

  • the Trust for Public Lands (TPL)
  • City and County of Denver
  • Earth Force
  • Westerly Creek Connection
  • Urban Drainage and Flood Control District

TPL and the City provided funding, based on community engagement, to build New Freedom Park, which has an urban garden, a playground, and a ball field. EPA funding supported the design work for the stream restoration. It is anticipated the restoration work should be implemented in the next few years.

Westerly Creek Green Infrastructure and Stream Restoration Design

Contact: Stacey Eriksen (, (303) 312-6692