Get to Know Your Greenway
Storm Drains: From the Streets to the River
Photos

By: J.J. Clark
SPREE Staff Writer
Other Get to Know Your Greenway Articles on left

Storm drains directly connect our city streets with our waterways.  When in rains in Denver the storm water is taken away from houses and businesses by flowing down through the city’s storm drains.  Storm drains usually start on a street corner as a hole in the curb that leads through a pipe and into the nearest waterway.  These storm drains are what prevents our roads, houses, and businesses from flooding every time it rains.  One of the biggest flood channels for Denver is the Cherry Creek, which has been a flood channel for this area since long before Denver was founded.

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As you walk along the Cherry Creek trail, you will notice holes in the concrete walls that run along both sides of the creek.  These holes are where the storm water goes after it enters the storm drains on the streets.  If you are ever on the trail during a rainstorm you will notice water gushing out of all of these holes and into the Cherry Creek.  Remember that the Cherry Creek is a flood channel and can rise very quickly without notice.  In a rainstorm do not seek refuge under the bridges by the water, instead seek higher ground away from any creeks or rivers.  When it rains the Cherry Creek’s water flow can be tremendous.

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Interestingly, storm drains can be a great way to feel connected to nature in a city.  In urban areas it is often difficult to find a connection to nature.  Even though city parks and open spaces may be far away, no matter where you are in a city you are directly connected to its waterways.  Every street in Denver is connected to the South Platte River and its tributaries through the storm drains.  When it rains, or the snow melts, all of the runoff will pass through the pipes from all areas of the city and eventually end up in the South Platte River.  This makes our urban waterways vulnerable to a lot of unintentional litter.  Trash that is dropped on a city street is sometimes thought of as different than the litter found in our river natural areas.  Because of the need for storm drains, all loose trash on city streets is potential trash that will end up in the rivers.

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This relationship that our city has with our waterways can help keep us close to our natural environment without even leaving the city limits.  This connection also means that in order to help keep the South Platte River and its tributaries clean, you don’t have to go anywhere except outside your front door.  If you pick up a piece of trash from anywhere in the streets or sidewalks of Denver, you are preventing that piece of trash from getting into the river.

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Next time you are walking around your neighborhood, try to find the storm drains that connect you to the South Platte River.  Remember, wherever you are in the city and no matter how far from the river itself, you are connected and can make a difference!

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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