Get to Know Your Greenway
By: J.J. Clark
SPREE Staff Writer
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150 years ago, Denver City was founded at the Confluence of the South Platte and the Cherry Creek. In 1974, the Confluence was the starting point for the Greenway Foundation's revitalization of Denver's urban waterways. In 2005, the last piece of the Confluence Park was completed as the Excel Energy substation was moved and the park developed to grant sloped access to the water from 15th. Today, Confluence Park is the center of Denver's system of greenway parks and trails.
Here are some of the highlights of Confluence Park:
The large grassy hill on the Speer Blvd side of the Cherry Creek and the upstream side of the South Platte is actually a giant pile of garbage! When the reclamation efforts began in 1974, they needed a place to put all of the concrete, car bodies, car tires, and more that was polluting the river. They used it to build the hill that now serves as an amphitheater for summertime concerts, movies, and a favorite place for kids to role down. Don't worry , the trash is buried deep under dirt, bluegrass and flower beds!
Local artist Emanuel Martinez captures the confluence of people who helped build Denver into the city that it is today. This 10,000 square foot mural is located underneath the Speer Viaduct on Little Raven Street. Look for native South Platte River animals scattered throughout the mural.
Part of the final addition to Confluence Park was the installation of a sculpture garden along 15th on the Downtown side of the South Platte. A giant granite leaf, duck, and fish serve as public art and children's play structures.
The large concrete plaza on the west side of the South Platte was one of the first construction projects at Confluence Park. It was designed to give access to the river to all people so that they create a connection to the river that is the lifeblood of our city. The curving ramps ensure that all people can get down to the banks of the South Platte. The plaza was later named after Joe Shoemaker in recognition of his dedication and vision to restoring the South Platte River as an amenity for the city of Denver.