The City of Fort Collins is developing a master plan for the Cache la Poudre River in the downtown corridor (Shields Street to Mulberry Street) to improve in-river and bankside recreation, habitat connectivity, restoration and rehabilitation, bank protection, flood mitigation and floodplain management, water quality, public safety and access, and transportation. The master plan will provide a long term vision and identify projects that will take many years to complete. Project goals (PDF 49KB).
The Poudre River Downtown Master Plan is final! Read the final plan here.
There were two open houses and two City Council Work Sessions about the project. Learn more about the public engagement process and results here.
The Poudre River from Shields Street through Downtown Fort Collins to Mulberry Street receives a substantial amount of public use. The land is primarily in public ownership, including McMurry, Salyer, River's Edge, Gustav Swanson, and Udall Natural Areas, as well as Lee Martinez, Legacy and Heritage Parks. In summer months, thousands of people throng to the area to swim, tube, picnic, walk, bike, fish, bird watch, and have a good time. A survey conducted five years ago determined that over 500,000 people a year use the river corridor, with much of that use occurring in the downtown area. Furthermore, over the last few years, City staff has noticed a dramatic increase in summer use. The City expects this upward use trend to continue, especially with the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and the Mason Street Transportation Corridor projects, as well as various downtown residential redevelopment and infill projects.
The high public use of the Poudre River in the project area reflects the intrinsic attractiveness of the River as well as the success of community-funded improvements. Unfortunately, however, there also are significant obstacles to visitor enjoyment. The obstacles discourage use by the community and contribute to unsafe, unsustainable, and damaging situations. Less-than-ideal conditions include, for example, poor wayfinding both around and in the river (for boaters/tubers/hikers); steep and riprapped river banks with no safe and/or sustainable ingress/egress; lack of parking for river access, including poor quality parking on the immediate edge of the river with riprap shoring (at Legacy Park); and, a lack of well designed, sustainable, picnic, fishing, and swimming areas. In addition to discouraging use by the community, the poor conditions contribute to degradation of the natural values of the area. For example, recreationists enter and leave the river in unsafe locations with steep banks which contributes to erosion and bank instability. Given these conditions, there is both a need, and an opportunity, to provide much-improved visitor amenities that will not only accommodate, encourage, and facilitate safe, enjoyable visitor use and beautification; but will also maintain, conserve, and enhance the natural values of the area.
In addition to obstacles posed to recreation, the area also has significant floodplain problems. Various structures in the River and over the River block flood flows. There are opportunities to modify these structures and to greatly reduce flooding. Furthermore, these structures pose an impediment to habitat connectivity and their modification could substantially improve aquatic habitat.
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The City of Fort Collins Park Planning, Natural Areas and Stormwater Departments and a team of consultants are preparing the Master Plan and construction documents for the first phase of improvements.