Get to Know Your Greenway
By: J.J. Clark
SPREE Staff Writer
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If you have not been along the Sand Creek or Westerly Creek in east Denver in a few years, you may not even recognize the old site for Stapleton airport. Where once runways and airplanes were the most prominent features of the land, there are now riverside parks and trails that weave through the quickly developing Stapleton neighborhood at Central Park, Denver. Keep your eye out for the old airport tower as you take a trip out east along Westerly Creek, one of the South Platte River’s tributaries, and see one of Denver’s newest parks.
The west side of the park is dominated by large fields of Kentucky Bluegrass and soccer goals, but if you follow the straight sidewalk that runs on the north side of the park east, you will discover an incredibly modern viewing platform, beautiful man made pond, picnic areas with grills and shade structures, a prairie dog field, and of course, Westerly Creek. The more natural eastern side of the park is home to many native plants like Coyote Willows and Switch Grass near the creek, as well as the newly constructed regional recreation center.
It is easy to miss, but on the northern part of the park, adjacent to the soccer fields but hidden by a small berm, is a beautiful xeriscape model garden. When I was there, I saw a rabbit enjoying some shade under one of the bushes, and enough flowers to keep photographers busy for a good amount of time. It is certainly worth the time to take to see the incredible gardening that can be done in Colorado’s climate with plants that are adapted to our sunny and dry days.
If you follow the trail that winds around the natural space surrounding Westerly Creek you will pass by some of the new housing build in the Stapleton area, and experience a new take on how housing and park spaces can interact. Westerly Creek is a tributary of the Sand Creek, which in turn is a tributary of the South Platte River. The confluence of the South Platte River and the Sand creek is north of town here. No matter whether you head west toward the mountains and follow the Bear Creek down stream, or to the eastern plains with Westerly Creek and Sand Creek, you will find water flowing into the South Platte River.