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EPA and Denver Mayor kick off Earth Day activities with $350K investment in South Platte River projects

Release Date: 04/20/2012
Contact Information: U.S. EPA: Stacey Eriksen, 303.312.6692 or Richard Mylott, 303.312.6654; City of Denver Parks and Recreation: Jay Clark, 720.913.0633; Greenway Foundation: Cindy Shoemaker, 303.358.6696

Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood among several benefitting from EPA funds

(Denver, Colorado – April 20, 2012) At an event today at Denver’s Shoemaker Plaza, Nancy Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, joined Mayor Michael B. Hancock, to announce $350K in EPA funding for efforts to restore and revitalize the South Platte River corridor. The EPA funds will be used by the City and The Greenway Foundation for several projects, including extensive riverfront restoration and water quality improvement at the Denver Housing Authority’s redevelopment project in the Sun Valley neighborhood.

“Today we announce investments that will increase access to a clean and healthy South Platte River,” said Stoner. “This EPA funding will help extend the vitality that we see along Lower Downtown’s riverfront to neighborhoods that still struggle with economic and environmental challenges. Together with the City and partners like The Greenway Foundation, EPA is making sure that a new generation of families can enjoy the South Platte River.“

The EPA funding includes $262,500 for riverfront restoration and green infrastructure along the South Platte River near Sun Valley, which borders the west side of the river between Sports Authority Field at Mile High and 6th Avenue. Funds will also help improve river access and recreational opportunities at Johnson-Habitat Park near Santa Fe Drive. These projects will advance two of the top five River Vision Implementation Plan projects identified by the City of Denver and the non-profit Greenway Foundation.

“Thanks to EPA’s tremendous financial support, we can continue our efforts to revitalize the South Platte River and Sun Valley Neighborhood,” said Mayor Michael Hancock. “It is these types of partnerships that will help us achieve our mission to improve the sustainability of River Corridor and deliver a world-class city where everyone matters.”

Sun Valley, one of the few Denver communities located directly on the South Platte River, includes a Denver Housing Authority affordable housing community that will be redesigned in a similar manner to the new South Lincoln/Mariposa project at 10th and Osage. EPA funding will be used by Denver Parks and Recreation and The Greenway Foundation for wetland and riverfront restoration, river access and water quality improvements, and environmental education, including a nature trail. These projects will complement redevelopment along the new light rail corridor, the construction of a new riverfront park, and additional projects to restore habitat and wetlands along Weir Gulch, which enters the South Platte in Sun Valley.

"The Environmental Protection Agency has been a valued and engaged partner with The Greenway Foundation for over 35 years,” said Jeff Shoemaker, Executive Director of The Greenway Foundation. “This latest grant for additional water quality and riparian improvements to Denver's South Platte River will allow our City's greatest natural resource to become an even healthier and more vibrant urban waterway."

Improvements to Johnson-Habitat Park, an innovative urban camp and river recreation area near Interstate 25 and Santa Fe Drive, will create a camping area and enhance public access to the River. These improvements will be made in coordination with Denver Parks and Recreation and the U.S. Forest Service’s Children’s Forest project.

EPA is also providing $75,000 to the City of Denver to enhance Brownfields planning efforts that are restoring blighted properties along the River. An additional $12,500 will help the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District and the City take steps to improve water quality and recreational opportunities in the River North area between 31st and 38th Streets.

The South Platte River is one of seven national pilots under the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, an initiative co-led by EPA and U.S. Forest Service.

EPA Regional Administrator, Jim Martin, will also join Mayor Michael B. Hancock and others to recognize Earth Day on Saturday, April 21 by participating in a cleanup event and trash survey along the river. The “RiverSweep” event will feature more than 1,200 volunteers and will kick off at 8:30 a.m. at Fishback Park.

The South Platte River

The South Platte River emerges from the Rocky Mountain foothills southwest of Denver, where it forms Chatfield Reservoir, a major source of drinking water for the Denver metro area. The river flows north through central Denver, which was founded along the river’s confluence with Cherry Creek. The population of Denver is almost 600,000, and the 12-county Denver Metro area is over 3 million. The South Platte River watershed covers 20% of Colorado’s land area and includes 60% of the state’s population.

The City and County of Denver, The Greenway Foundation, and others have recently completed detailed plans for the South Platte corridor, including the River North and River South Greenway Master Plans, and the River Vision Implementation Plan which is a unified set of project priorities for the River corridor. These plans have been developed with significant community involvement.

Sun Valley Neighborhood

Much of Sun Valley’s population (94% according to the 2000 census) resides in 10 blocks dominated by publicly-subsidized housing operated by the Denver Housing Authority. A large part of the neighborhood consists of industrial areas, parks, city service buildings and Sports Authority Field at Mile High and its surrounding parking lots. The 2000 Census indicates 70% of households in Sun Valley are families with children under 18. The poverty rate in Sun Valley is five times higher than the city of Denver as a whole with 71.5% of its residents living in poverty compared with 14.3% for all Denverites. The demographics are 8% White, 26% Black, 54% Hispanic, 8% Asian, 1% Native American, and 3% Multiracial.

More information on the Federal Urban Waters Federal Partnership: http://www.urbanwaters.gov/