Denver, Colorado

By Finnegan, Lora J. | Sunset, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Denver, Colorado


Finnegan, Lora J., Sunset


The great South Platte

Stroll alongside Denver's South Platte River and you'll see cyclists and joggers dotting the paths. Emerald-- headed mallards bob alongside kayakers in the river's riffles of whitewater. Under the surface, catfish linger in deep holes; on the banks, muskrats snuffle beneath the tall cottonwoods.

It's a beautiful sight, as befits an important river. The South Platte helped define Denver. The city's earliest settlements sprang up along the riverbanks, as did its first heavy industries.

But as Denver grew, the river became a dumping ground for trash and industrial waste. "People dumped on the river for 100 years," says Jeff Shoemaker, executive director of the Greenway Foundation, which helps guide river restoration. "We've only been at the cleanup for 27 years, so we still have work to do."

Still, the progress that has been made is amazing. Back in 1974, Mayor Bill McNichols organized the Platte River Development Committee, directed by Joe Shoemaker-- Jeff's father-to propose solutions for the river's problems. Later, Joe Shoemaker started the Greenway Foundation, which has raised more than $20 million since 1976 for river cleanup and hiking and biking paths.

In the early 1990s, the city proposed the Central Platte Valley Plan. …

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