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Biking, walking, fishing Denver's Platte River Greenway.

Biking, walking, fishing Denver's Platte River Greenway

A wild and troubled past is in part whatmade Denver's South Platte River the mild, park-lined river it is today. Devastating flooding in 1965 awoke planners to the need for a dam and cleanup of a river that had become a dumping ground. In 1974, the idea for the Platte River Greenway was born, thanks to city and county support, volunteers, and a nonprofit foundation.

Since the first park and bike path segmentopened in 1975, a dozen new parks and four waterway trails have been built, and these connect three existing parks to the greenway. Recently the last parks for the now 10 1/2-mile-long greenway opened.

The new parks, bridges, boat chutes, andput-in places, coupled with warmer days, make this a good time to discover the greenway. Downtown, the greenway is easy for Denver visitors to reach (it's a short walk from the 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square area).

Even Denverites familiar with the greenwaymay want to check out the new parks and paths, or bring down a kayak or canoe to try out the boat chutes.

Admittedly, the Platte greenway is narrowand hemmed in by roadways and development; still, it's a welcome city oasis. Some of the riverfront's worst areas-- a city dump, highway maintenance yard, and public works storage area--became the first park sites. Broken concrete and rusting autos once littered the spot that became the greenway's showplace, Confluence Park.

The nonprofit Platte River GreenwayFoundation planned and implemented the system's impressive growth. Its job continues with maintenance--trail rangers bike the greenway daily to handle cleanup, though broken glass and litter are still problems.

Biking, walking the greenway: shorter and longer routes

Knowing how the greenway is generallyused may determine when you choose to visit. Cycling and jogging refugees from downtown businesses throng paths at noontime on sunny weekdays. Sunday afternoons often find families using the parkway around the Children's Museum at Gates-Crescent Park. During football season, enterprising Broncos fans park and picnic along the greenway, then bike or hike to Mile High Stadium.

This easy hike or bike trip takes you fromDenver's historic heart and out along the greenway to some of the new parks. (There are no bike rentals nearby.)

Begin at Larimer Square (just southeastof number 3 on the map), where you can gallery-hop and pick up picnic supplies. Head northwest on 14th Street, turn left on Market Street (watch traffic here), and pick up the Cherry Creek pathway, again heading northwest.

In about 1/4 mile, you'll reach ConfluencePark and the Platte River Greenway. At the nearby Forney Transportation Museum, you can see antique cars and steam engines. It's open 10 to 5 Mondays through Saturdays, 11 to 5 Sundays; admission is $3, $1.50 ages 12 to 18, 50 cents ages 5 to 11. At Confluence Park, you might see kayakers who come here to practice on the tiered boat chute.

Heading roughly south (upstream), you'llreach Gates-Crescent Park, with exercise stations, a children's playground, and the handsome Children's Museum. It's open noon to 5 Tuesdays and Sundays, 2 to 5 Wednesdays through Fridays, 10 to 5 Saturdays; admission is $2.25. From here, you can backtrack to your starting point for an easy 5-mile round trip.

Farther south is Overland Pond EducationalPark. One of the newer parks, it sports a 1-acre pond with a fly-casting practice pad on the south shore and fishing for a variety of sunfish. Thanks to a grant from a bank, the Colorado Federation of Garden Clubs has landscaped the park's 6 1/2 acres with plants from five Colorado ecological zones. Continue along the pathway, crisscrossing the river to Grant-Frontier Park with its tiny replica log cabin, then backtrack to return for a level 20-mile round-trip ride.

A number of drinking fountains are dottedalong the greenway, and you'll find rest rooms near Confluence and Overland Pond parks.

Fishing, boating along the greenway

Twenty years ago, the South Platte herewas so polluted it wouldn't support any fish life. Now fishing through the city is limited mostly to carp and other warmwater species, but perch and bluegill are considered good sport on light tackle.

Boating is more popular: major obstacleswere removed so canoes and kayaks can run nearly 11 miles of the river almost year-round. But use caution during peak spring runoff, when flows may reach 3,000 cubic feet per second.

You'll find boat put-ins at Overland PondEducational Park and downstream at Frog Hollow, Weir Gulch Marina, Fishback Landing, Confluence Park, Riverfront Park, and Globeville Landing. A dozen small drop structures, as well as three boat chutes (at W. 3rd and W. 13th avenues, and Confluence Park), offer boaters and rafters a little excitement.

A new map and brochure to the greenwayshould be ready by this month; to get one (it's free), call (303) 698-1322.

Summer concerts, races

Three free Wednesday concerts arescheduled, each from 6:30 to 8:30 P.M. at Confluence Park: June 24 (country and western), July 29 (jazz quartet), and August 26 (big-band jazz).

On June 21 from 9 to noon, the GreatRelay Race starts and ends in Confluence Park. To join, call 698-1322. Teams of eight will follow five different courses to jog, bicycle, kayak, roller skate, and either canoe, raft, or racewalk. Watch the finish here around 11 to noon.

Photo: Backdropped by the Denver skyline, Platte River Greenway meets Cherry Creek at grassy Confluence Park. At right, young fisherman shows off carp, proof of returning fish

Photo: In 10 1/2 miles between I-70 and U.S.285, greenway runs through 17 parks and preserves near heart of town

Photo: At Gates-Crescent Park, exercise courselets these cyclists stretch out bike-weary legs just yards from the greenway
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jun 1, 1987
Words:953
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