Pay a visit to the northern Front Range city of Longmont, and chances are you’ll find yourself somewhere along the city’s flagship recreational attraction—the 8-mile-long St. Vrain Greenway.
Recent visitors to the greenway, which forms the spine of the city’s trail and park system, however, will note that virtually every stretch was affected during the September 2013 floods.
“It took 30 years—a generation—to build,” says Dale Rademacher, Longmont’s director of public works and natural resources, “and Mother Nature took one day to destroy it.”
The system was unique, designed and built with close collaboration between the city and property owners. Residents began a small section of the trail in the mid-80s, and by 1994, the city officially began master-planned improvements, with funding from the Colorado Lottery, grants and private donations.
“We want to learn from the flood and rebuild the channel to be able to carry a 100-year flood. The trail will be part of that project.” – Dale Rademacher
Despite the widespread damage it sustained, the greenway was a smart way to build on a floodplain. Damages were much less extensive, expensive and dangerous than they would have been if the area had been developed for commercial or residential use. Plus, greenways such as Longmont’s stabilize streambanks, regulate streamflows and protect riparian ecosystems. Think of the recreational trail as a bonus prize.
Restoring the greenway will be no small task. Longmont estimates it will take $80 million to repair the St. Vrain Creek channel and complete future flood mitigation projects. An additional $15 million will be needed to recover and rebuild the greenway. The money will come partly from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal and state sources—a $600,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado has already been approved for flood repairs to both the St. Vrain and adjoining Lefthand Greenway. The city council also instituted two monthly fee increases on utility bills to fund flood recovery projects and will ask voters to approve a $20 million bond issue in June 2014 to increase available funding.
“The community approach won’t be simply to rebuild the greenway exactly as it was,” Rademacher says. “We want to learn from the flood and rebuild the channel to be able to carry a 100-year flood. The trail will be part of that project.”