Spring Creek ponds, dog park to be closed for 6 weeks amid dam construction
The Spring Creek Trail will be accessible via the county road. Pet owners should head to Butcherknife Trail, Rita Valentine Park, Whistler Park or the Sailors Way Trail to exercise their dog off-leash.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Those who enjoy a walk around the Spring Creek ponds should prepare for a closure in the area lasting about six weeks. While the closure is in place, the Spring Creek Trail will remain accessible via Routt County Road 34, also known as Spring Creek Road.
A construction project starting in mid-August will expand how much water can flow through the spillway of the upper pond. Officials want to update the infrastructure amid concerns that infrastructure of the upper dam would not withstand a 100-year flood.
This means that from mid-August until late September or early October, the upper and lower ponds and the adjacent off-leash dog park will be closed.
“Once the contractor moves in on-site, the area will be completely closed off right at the entrance to the lower pond,” said Craig Robinson, parks, open space and trails manager for the city of Steamboat Springs.
The dog park, trails around the pond, as well as the shelter and gazebo will be closed. The bathroom will remain open.
Robinson explained that the dams were built in 1913 as Steamboat Springs’ first reservoirs for drinking water. The ponds were replaced when Fish Creek Reservoir was constructed in about 1954.
“Obviously, with a structure that old, there was some monitoring going on by the Colorado (Division of Water Resources) Dam Safety engineers, and they had some safety concerns about the capacity of the dam’s spillway to carry the 100-year flood and that the spillway was undersized,” Robinson said. “If there was a flooding event, the structure might be in jeopardy. Additionally, the age of the drainage works — the piping and everything else — there was some concern for that as well.”
Robinson said the project will essentially breach the dam to make it a smaller pool, which will be able to pass high flows and have fewer safety concerns. He added the same work was completed on the lower pond around 2002.
After construction, the dam and the upper pool will be smaller, and the spillway passing flows out of the pond will be larger. A bridge over the spillway will not be replaced, as Robinson said the city aimed to save money by not building an even larger bridge over the larger spillway.
Once construction on the dam and spillway is completed this fall, interpretive signs explaining the history of the ponds will be installed. The existing loop trail will be replaced, likely next year, with another form of loop trail, though it will not go over the spillway, Robinson said.
The city has already started work to drain the upper pond. In early August, contractors will begin construction, closing access to the ponds, gazebo, shelter and dog park.
Robinson said he anticipated this would make other off-leash areas more popular. The city and Steamboat Digs Dogs are currently installing a water feature at Rita Valentine Park, and though it won’t provide the ability for dogs to swim, there will be water consistently available for pups.
“We’re going to be working with Steamboat Digs Dogs in getting the word out,” Robinson said. “We have signs posted up there today giving people a heads up it’s going to be closed.”
The dog park will likely be re-graded with what will become excess soil fill when the pond’s water level falls. The park will be re-vegetated with native seed and would be fenced off until grass has regrown to comply with a stormwater permit. After construction, much of the dog park could be closed to allow the grass to mature.
“We’re going to try to get the dog park reopened as quickly as possible once the project is done, but what we do open will be a much smaller dog park, likely with only access to the water at best, and the rest of the park will be fenced off,” Robinson said. “It’ll be perhaps the middle of summer next year before the grass is grown in, and we can close out that stormwater permit.”
Dogs are allowed to be off-leash as long as they are under voice control on Butcherknife Trail, Rita Valentine Park, Whistler Park and the Sailors Way Trail, formally called the Lower Spring Creek Trail. Dogs are allowed in the Yampa River, as long as they don’t interfere with tubers, anglers and other users, are in sight and under voice control and are not in the river during low flow periods, which could harm aquatic life.
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