Most of Lakewood escaped the September floods with minimal damage, but one location that experienced a serious change is Bear Creek Lake Park.
According to Drew Sprafke, regional parks supervisor, the waters in the reservoir came up 50 vertical feet — from 5,558 to around 5,610 feet — and the creek itself overflowed its banks.
“Everything you can imagine was underwater, and there is still a good portion that still is,” Sprafke said. “Right now we’re seeing an initial cost estimate of $380,000 in repairs, but we expect that to decrease as water levels lower.”
The park is open, however, and many of the facilities and trails are open for use.
The current high water levels in Bear Creek Lake Park demonstrate that Bear Creek Dam and Reservoir are doing exactly what they were built to do: safely capture floodwaters raging down Bear Creek to protect populated areas downstream, according to information provided by the city.
Water could rise a total of 109 feet before filling the reservoir and starting to drain into the spillway.
The waters of Bear Creek start at Mount Evans and flow east through Evergreen, Morrison, Lakewood and Denver before reaching the South Platte River. Upstream from the Bear Creek Dam, Bear Creek drains a total of 236 square miles.
On Wednesday, Oct. 2, the city hosted the first of what is expected to be several volunteer clean-up efforts at the park.
Volunteers were working on the Skunk Hollow picnic area, cleaning debris and laying down a base and pack material to build the area back up again.
“The river overran the bank and ran for a good week, and this is one of the more popular areas,” said Wayne Kruschke, a maintenance person at the park. “We lost all the path material and a lot of active grass, so we’ll also need to reseed the area as well.”
Both human and woody (logs and branches) debris were washed all over the park by the water, and debris clean-up is going to be a project for a while.
Sprafke said the community response to the park’s need has been incredible, and they’re hoping to channel that energy into cleaning up as much as possible.
“There will be some work that will have to be done by staff, but we’ve had a lot of interest in helping, especially from trail users and the angling community,” he said.
Work on the dam began in 1979 — the last of three dams built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of their Tri-Lakes Projects, according to information from the city. Bear Creek, Cherry Creek and Chatfield dams were built to protect the Denver area from a 100-year flood.
In 1982 the City of Lakewood signed a 50-year lease with the Corps of Engineers for the development of recreational facilities around the dam and reservoir, which led to the creation of Bear Creek Lake Park.
During the clean-up, resident Gweneth Welch said that she was helping because she wanted to give back to the park that had given so much to her.
“I ride my bike here when I’m able,” she said. “I thought it would be important if I could donate some of my time to helping.”
For more information on the park and what is open and closed, visit www.lakewood.org/bclp.