This study examines the South Platte River throughout the twelve miles stretch within the Denver metropolitan area. The study proposes design scenarios which address a variety of typological conditions within the corridor.
As the study began, we discovered a story of a forgotten river, a river whose natural character has been forsaken by industrial use and general neglect.
The areas adjacent to the Platte have the highest Native American and Hispanic population, the lowest income per household, and the lowest employment rate.
The areas along the Platte have high levels of disturbances, noise and pollution, low biodiversity and an overall low quality that makes the river a dump instead of a core. The combination of social and physical issues gives compelling reasons for the development of a revitalization plan.
River Form. Early maps show a meandering, braided river with banks up to a mile wide in places. The river has been significantly altered in order to adapt to the city grid, the space along the river creates a tear that breaks the city in two, rather than creating a place that embraces the two banks.
The urban interface. The line and the grid. A map was developed to visualize where the city grid ends towards the river. Where the city is far we propose to spread the natural character of the corridor. Where the city is close an urban riverfront for pedestrian use is proposed.
Cottonwood associations were felled for lumber and firewood. Water quality and wildlife habitat have been damaged and the aesthetic value almost deleted. The river is now channeled and controlled by dams and reservoirs.
Within the main channel a narrower, deeper channel will accommodate the low flow re-establishing natural processes. Vegetation will be allowed to grow between the inner low flow and the outer high flow channels.
The gulches. Five small gulches are a significant part of the urban South Platte River system. In addition to being a natural drainage way in an artificial environment, the gulches may serve as corridors for wildlife and people.
Restoring vegetation will mitigate some of the damage and distinguish the gulch corridor as a unique space within the grid of the city, so that people far form the main branch might have a mental and physical connection to the river.
Wildlife. The river is aligned with the annual North/South migratory route.
The study identifies patches adjacent to and beyond the river to be connected between themselves and to the South Platte River corridor. These new corridors will combine with the existing tributaries of the Platte to provide continuous habitat to reinforce the system.
Diverse and continuous vegetation along the greenways will build a network of alternative paths to and from the hills, the reservoirs, the countryside. Vegetation of different size will be planted in such patterns to attract birds (sculpted edges, peninsulas, perpendicular connections).
Water quality. Adding wetlands, meadows and catchments, shading the river by planting, meander and deepening the channel, creating riffles and pools to add oxygen, will improve water quality.
System of swales, wetlands, ponds in the Arenas parking lots next to the river.
Wildflower Plantings. The South Platte River corridor originally had an abundance of wildflowers and prairie bunch grasses. Replanting will encourage understanding of the natural history, heighten awareness of seasonal change, promote biodiversity.
Wildflower planting will be especially concentrated in highly visible areas for people to see, defining places of and access to the water; areas around bridges, heavily used sections of the bike path as well as neighborhood connections
The river and the evolution of the city form. Native Americans, the river as a center point in their life rhythms, Pioneers, the river as “finest natural highway in the world” and Industrial Era, the Robinson Brick Company, the Ady and Crowe grain elevator, the railroad, the cattle industry. These four heritages are returned to educational activities.
Native American heritage
Industrial Era heritage
The design for the Gates Rubber plant shows a sequence of detention ponds to gather storm water. The ponds are lined with recycled rubber and when dry can be used for skateboards and other sports.
Design schemes are proposed to transform land surrounding infrastructure along the South Platte River into spaces that reveal their function and serve as landmarks. The design transforms the Zuni electric plants site into an educational park.
Awareness of the River. The South Platte is not visible looking from within the city. Different sets of actions are to be taken inside the channel and outside the channel.
Designs are developed to increase awareness of seasonality, speed, changing width and level of the water, sound, associations of plants and other episodes.