United States

Shop Creek

Draining west into Cherry Creek Reservoir from the Aurora suburb east of Denver, the mile-long Shop Creek provides flood control and recreational opportunities in a woodland plains setting. In 1950, the 850-acre reservoir was impounded with the construction of a dam on Cherry Creek and, nine years later, the surrounding area was designated the Cherry Creek State Park, covering some 3,364 acres. As urbanization of Aurora increased, the Shop Creek tributary became vulnerable to sedimentation and erosion. The degradation of the stream, combined with polluted runoff from urbanized areas, contributed to the buildup of phosphorus and nitrogen in the reservoir. In the 1980s, Cherry Creek State Park, the City of Aurora, and the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District sought to remedy the problems while enhancing wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. 

In response, landscape architects at Wenk Associates and Muller Engineering designed an innovative solution that utilizes ecological design principles and a terraced profile to create a stormwater treatment strategy. Six crescent-shaped ponds slow water flow along the creek, which was realigned to replace the high-velocity channel with a serpentine meander. The shape of the ponds, reinforced by a soil and concrete blend, traps sediment and pollutants while wetlands populated with cattails, cottonwoods, and willows remove phosphorus and other pollutants through bioremediation before water reaches the lake. An interpretive trail parallels the creek, passing through woodlands and connecting to the Colorado Front Range Trail. The design has transformed the barren canyon that once surrounded the creek into a shaded habitat for wildlife. The project received a Merit Award in Design from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1995.

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