Flatirons Park Project: Boulder Creek

The connection between fly fishing and conservation is innate. As fishermen and women learn more about the sport: ecology and environment play heavy in deciding where to fish, what to fish, and how we fish. Around the country there are folks who volunteer with organizations like Trout Unlimited (add other groups you support) who understand that if you protect and improve habitat: great fishing will take care of itself. Local volunteer groups like the Boulder Flycaster Chapter of Trout Unlimited put restoration and protection in action via in stream habitat improvement projects.

 

These projects aim to improve degraded trout habitat, protect habitat, or provide access and typically range in cost from $20,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Recent projects include rerouting off road vehicle trails from crossing headwater streams, restoring natural features to miles of stream long ago channelized by the railroad, installing belly boat ramps and fishing piers, and restoring native vegetation on stream banks. These projects often involve many partners including Trout Unlimited chapters, local government, federal government, and state agencies. Often seed monies are applied for via grants and government partnerships and those monies are matched with fundraising and in-kind labor.

 

Recently the Boulder Flycaster Chapter of Trout Unlimited completed the Flatiron’s Park Project: restoring a mile of urban stream on Middle Boulder Creek in the City of Boulder Colorado. This mile-plus reach of stream had been channelized over the years with urban development, was severely over width, and over sedimented from devastating 2013 floods. Boulder Flycasters partnered with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks and applied for a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Fishing is Fun program administered by the State of Colorado.

 

Led by the Boulder Flycasters the groups worked together for several years to secure funding, permits, and approvals to implement in stream restoration that focuses on the ecological habitat needs of this section of Boulder Creek. The in stream work included two weeks of heavy equipment reshaping and improving the river bed and banks to improve:

Stream channel geometry balanced with the current flow and sediment regime.

Implementing natural instream habitat features for the habitat needs of native and sport fish.

Constructing a timber/cobble point bar habitat to improve sinuosity.

Excavating small pools below boulder clusters and point bars where appropriate.

Excavating a low flow channel to concentrate over-winter flows.

Adding boulder deflectors to protect existing vegetation from further erosion.

Planting native riparian vegetation to stabilize banks and improve canopy cover.

 

The total project cost for the Flatirons Park Project was over $100,000. Monies were secured from the Fishing is Fun Grant and City of Boulder and the remaining: about $35,000 was fundraised by the Boulder Trout Unlimited Chapter.  Fundraising was achieved via special  events hosted by the Chapter including their annual pig roast, gala auctions, donations from members, and support of local businesses. Local businesses who made contributions included local fly shops: Front Range Anglers and Rocky Mountain Anglers, and local businesses: FishSki Provisions, Tenkara USA, and Rep Your Water.

 

Rep Your Water by coincidence had just adopted the same area of Boulder Creek that Flatirons Park Project occurred. From day one, Rep Your Water has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Flatirons Park Stream Restoration Project and contributed significantly to the Boulder Flycasters ability to make their grant match and have this project come to fruition.  Via the annual Bash For Boulder Creek party celebrating Rep Your Water’s anniversary and the local watershed and via special edition Boulder Creek hat sales, Rep Your Water’s contributions paid for permitting, design, and ultimately construction to improve this reach of river.

 

Stream restoration and protection projects take a lot of time, coordination, volunteer effort, work, and money. The Flatirons Project is a great success thanks to the participating groups and supporters of the Boulder Flycasters; especially individual donors and businesses. The difference in available quality trout habitat before and after the Flatirons Park construction project is remarkable. What once was an urban, flat, structureless mile of stream now meanders, has structure, flow, and pools like a natural stream should. The trout, as well as all other wildlife and fish, should be very happy with their restored environs.

-Rob McCormack, Boulder Flycasters