LAKEWOOD, Colo. — When Katie Gill wants to get away from the hustle of life in the Denver metropolitan area, she makes her way to Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood, where creeks, forests, and lakes provide an oasis close to home.
"You can be removed from the outside world," Gill said. "You’re entire sensory experience is in the great outdoors which is one of the reasons a lot of us live here."
Potentially, her experience could change. Working with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying the idea of increasing the reservoir volume at Bear Creek Lake Park to increase water storage for the Denver region.
"A 20,000 acre-foot expansion increases the volume of the reservoir by 10 times its current volume," Gill said. "It would inundate approximately 615 acres of the park. It’s a third of the park and it’s the heart and lungs of the park."
Gill started a group called SaveBearCreekLakePark.org to push the federal government to look elsewhere or expand volume by digging deeper in the current footprint instead of flooding miles of trails and riparian corridors through the center of Bear Creek Lake Park.
"How do you replace a mile of a running river and all of the cottonwood trees that grow along it and provide that habitat?" Gill said.
The popular beach in the park would be untouched. The water recreation area in the park would increase, making more room for boats and water sports. Gill acknowledges that more water in Bear Creek Lake Park would help alleviate Colorado's ongoing water supply issues and surrounding states.
But, she said there are other areas to store water without destroying the environment along Turkey Creek and Bear Creek in the park near C-470 and Morrison Road.
"The impact here is just too great relative to the amount of storage," Gill said.
Drew Sprafke is the City of Lakewood's Open Space Supervisor. If changes are made, Sprafke believes Bear Creek Lake Park would still serve more than 800,000 visitors per year, even if it is more lake than land.
"It may change the character of that busy, but it's not going to change that we're busy," Sprafke said.
The land where the campground, archery range and stables sit currently would be underwater in addition to one of the main roads. Sprafke said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would look at all options over three years of increasing the water supply.
"There's a lot of people in Colorado. There's a lot of people moving here," Sprafke said. "We know that climate conditions are making it worse for water conditions so there's obviously a need for water."
Gill said she needs to get the word out now, even though the feasibility study just started a few months ago.
"The earlier we provide our voices and our concerns into the process, the better the chances are that they have enough opportunity to address our concerns," Gill said.
To find out more or provide feedback, head to their website.
"There are hundreds of thousands of people who use this park every year and largely the word has not gone out," Gill said.
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