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Get to Know Your Greenway
Northside Park and Heron Pond
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By: J.J. Clark
SPREE Staff Writer
Other Get to Know Your Greenway Articles on left

Grab your camera and explore the soon to be changing Northern stretch of the South Platte River Greenway. Take some photos now so after the new master plan is enacted you can see the difference!

Nestled on the north end of the South Platte River trail in Denver’s industrial district sits Heron Pond, a wildlife refuge, and Northside Park, an expansive park space built on a former waste water treatment facilty.  These parks represent the quiet change that is coming to the northside of Denver’s greenway.  Currently the parks are an underused amenity because they are surrounded by industrial rather than residential land.  Access to the parks is difficult but with the River North Masterplan completed, these areas are about to see some serious change.

Heron Pond sits adjacent to Denver’s recycle center and hosts cattail groves and diverse wildlife.  Currently the trail around the pond is more like a construction site with deep tractor marks in mud and access to the pond is limited.  The trails are overgrown with weeds and give the feeling of meager use.  While the pond boasts being a wildlife refuge, the pond is inundated with the noise of the recycle center.  Machines and trucks busy themselves in the process of Denver recycling while 30 feet away on the pond sit 40 plus ducks. Herons and cormorants fly by, and a few crickets chirp.  This pond is a perfect example of Denver’s constant change and growth.  This area was once purely industrial, but now sits in transition as the environmentally toxic materials dissipate and the land is restored.  Currently this pond offers a view to a space in flux.  The urban park goers can visit this park to get a glimpse of a space before its surrounding areas are made to match.

The site of Northside Park was a sewage treatment facility for Denver dating from the 1930’s.  While it had not been used since the 1950’s, in 1984 a new wastewater treatment facility opened further down stream on the South Platte River.  This park, the site of the old plant, became host for looters, graffiti, vandalism and complete disrepair.  Windows had been shot out and all valuables down to the copper wire and aluminum stairs had been stolen.  It was dubbed, “Pirate Island.”  It was not until 1995 when a number of different organizations got together to overhaul the site.  Today Northside Park is a multi use public space.  You will know you found it when you see the national Guard Armory just adjacent to the park.

Northside Park offers an incredible urban aesthetic unique to Denver.  The park is located on the exact location of the old water treatment plant, which is apparent as they used concrete foundations from the plant as nostalgic sculptures to fill the space.  This park feels brand new as the sidewalks are wide and engraved with quotes from Denver’s youth.  The Kentucky Bluegrass areas are kempt and there seems to be an endless amount of open space for picnicking, sports, or exploration.  The only thing missing is people.  The park’s location, not its amenities, is its Achilles heel.  This park, built in a residential area, would host countless visitors every day.  Unfortunately, most of the visitors to this park are on their bikes and don’t stop for too long on their way through.  This park has the potential to become one of Denver’s most uniquely aesthetic urban parks in the coming years.

Sources: All information such as years and details about the park's past were taken from the informational signs posted around the park itself.

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Get to Know Your Greenway is written by SPREE staffer J.J. Clark.  Each month, J.J. explores a park along the South Platte River and ties the history of the park into his commentary.  Want to talk to J.J. about where he has been this month?  Email him at: jj@spreemail.org