PURE (Protect our Urban River Environment)

By David Howlett and Marge Price
Capitol Representatives

It has been almost two years since The Greenway Foundation took on the ambitious task of creating and implementing the PURE (Protect our Urban River Environment) initiative with an initial goal creating a trash free South Platte River (River) throughout the  Denver metro area.

Through information and education planning outreach efforts,  PURE hopes to raise the public awareness and commitment to keeping trash – the most visible form of pollution -- out of the River.  Water quality improvement will, the Foundation believes, come from continued success of  PURE and its partners to reduce all forms of pollution in the River.

Additionally, PURE is committed to enhancing the recreational value of the River, thereby making it  more appealing to users of the open space and parks and trails along it as well as to the in-river recreationists – fishermen, kayakers, whitewater rafters.  These enhancements will,  in turn make the development of residential and commercial property all along the River an even more appealing investment. 

Since The Greenway Foundation initiated the efforts in 1974 to reclaim and restore an ecologically dead South Platte River, over $100 million of environmental and recreational enhancements have been created along the River’s corridor which have, in turn, created over $10 Billion of related economic investments, in particular within the Central Platte Valley.  Creating and enacting a vision to establish a trash free River will significantly add to the environmental and economic value of our City’s greatest natural resource.

As Jeff Shoemaker, Executive Director of the Greenweay Foundation stated last year when reflecting upon PURE’s first year, “The journey being undertaken by the PURE coalition will neither be easy nor quick, but agreeing that the community at large will no longer ignore or accept trash in the South Platte River Watershed is a significant first step.”

One of the strongest allies in reducing trash within the South Platte River corridor is the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District (UDFCD). Each year, UDFCD conducts monthly sweeps of the River to remove trash and other debris, all of which are impediments to the River’s ability to properly allow for maximum stream flow.   This year, in conjunction with the PURE effort, UDFCD is tracking both the most significant location of trash within the River as well as inventory the related types of trash.  This newest collaborative effort between UDFCD and The Greenway Foundation will greatly assist the Foundations efforts to obtain the needed information related to PURE’s core initiatives.

These initiatives are being supported through a variety of funding sources including the City and County of Denver, the City of Sheridan, the City of Englewood as well as non-governmental funding sources including Denver Trout Unlimited, Colorado Whitewater Assocation, Confluence Kayaks, the Kenney Brothers Foundation and the  Foundation’s endowment - Greenway Preservation Trust.  Most recently, the PURE initiative has received a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment under the Section 319 program they administer.  Funding is federal based, but each state determines how it will allocate the money.  While the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has approved the award of the 319 grant, there are still a number of technical requirements to be met before funding becomes available.  And, added matching funds will be needed as the project moves from 2011 to 2012 and beyond.  The 319 grant will be a significant source of support over the next two years.

Creating a trash free River is the newest priority of The Greenway Foundation.  For over 37 years, the Foundation has been dedicated to allowing the South Platte River to become the premier urban river in the United States.  The focus and goals of PURE are a key component of reaching this longstanding goal.