303 Triathlon Ambassador Erin Trail attended the first Rueter-Hess Reservoir Open House at Parker Town Hall on February 17, 2016, with the goal of learning more about recreational opportunities that may be offered – specifically triathlon and open water swimming. What she learned is very encouraging and exciting for the triathlon community…
Rueter-Hess Reservoir Master Plan Open House
By 303 Ambassador Erin Trail
February 17, 2016, Parker Town Hall, Parker, Colorado
Construction of Rueter-Hess Reservoir was completed in 2012 with the primary purpose of storage and supply of drinking water. The reservoir has a storage capacity of 75,000 acre-feet, has a maximum depth of 185 feet, and a surface area of 1,170 acres.
The Rueter-Hess Reservoir (RHR) Recreation Authority was created with the five regional partners of Douglas County: the Cities of Lone Tree and Castle Pines, and the Towns of Castle Rock and Parker. The RHR Recreation Authority is overseeing the master planning process, both for water use and recreational activities.
Rueter-Hess Reservoir is located approximately 3 miles south of downtown Parker along Newlin Gulch, which is a tributary drainage of Cherry Creek. If you’ve ridden your bike along Hess Road, chances are you’re familiar with this area and are very excited for recreational opportunities within the reservoir boundary.
RHR Recreation Authority has been working on developing a Recreation Master Plan, with the vision of a “tranquil and serene environment to support the natural beauty of the site, as well as preserving the wildlife.” The initial planning phase for the Recreation Master Plan included a survey in November 2015, with the goal of obtaining input from potential recreation users on the types of activities that could be implemented at the reservoir. The survey results have been compiled and show that hiking, open space, non-motorized boating, and mountain biking were highly ranked among survey participants for desired recreational activities.
RHR Recreational Authority is presently seeking feedback on three recreational concepts and is hosting a series of Open Houses. The first Open House was at Parker Town Hall on February 17, 2016.
Recreational Concepts (Graphics by Parker Water and Sanitation District)
RHR Recreational Authority has prepared 3 recreation concepts for the site; Concept 1 is the most basic and “natural” while the other two offer increased opportunities for camping, boating, and trails.
Concept 1 includes the following elements (which will also be included as part of Concepts 2 and 3):
• Nature play area
• A minimum of 8 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use, mainly located in the northern 425 acre portion of the site
• Picnic area and restrooms
• Prairie native plant walking areas
• Non-motorized boating
• Backcountry camp sites (accessible only by boat)
Concept 2 will include these additional elements, in addition to the elements described in Concept 1:
• Disc golf (only included in Concept 2)
• An additional 3-4 miles of trails, which includes trail access for camping and intermediate biking trails
• Trail access for camping
• Storage and inspection area for privately-owned boats
• Meditation circle overlook
• Incline trail
• Outdoor classroom/amphitheater
Concept 3 will include these additional elements, in addition to the items described in Concepts 1 and 2:
• Water exploration area
• Off-leash dog park
• Additional camping site
• An additional 3-4 miles of trails, mainly in the form of advance mountain biking trails on the northern 425 acre portion of the site
• Cultural center building
• Sledding hill
The three concepts are similar in nature, with the main priority of protection of drinking water. Simply put, this means limited recreational contact with the water. No motorized boats will be permitted on the water (the only exception is the Parker Water and Sanitation District’s [PWDS’s] boat used to collect water quality samples).
Initially, the only non-motorized boats allowed for use will be provided from a vendor located within the reservoir. This is because there won’t be an area or staff available to inspect watercraft prior to use during the first phase of recreational use at the area; as funds and resources become available an inspection area will be constructed and personal watercraft may be used at the reservoir.
Open water swimming was discussed with PWSD employees Susan St. Vincent, Director of Business Solutions, and Ron Redd, District Manager. Originally, swimming was not being considered. RHR Recreation Authority has a vision for a tranquil and natural setting. The swim beaches at Chatfield and Aurora Reservoirs are crowded and noisy, and trash generated from the users could potentially contaminate the water and surrounding areas. Given the water level fluctuations, a swim beach would be challenging to construct and maintain due to the potential surface area required. Additionally, space parking and other facilities to support large swim beach crowds typically seen at other areas are challenging to construct due to the topography of the area and construction of these amenities are presently not in the budget at Rueter-Hess. In other words: the focus is on “serene and tranquil” uses of the area.
But never fear triathletes and swimmers! We are very fortunate to have an Ironman finisher as the Director of Engineering at PWSD and he is working with PWSD and RHR Recreation Authority to educate them on the potential impacts of open water swimming (which are substantially less than impacts from a swim beach) and ways to incorporate swimming into the Master Recreation Plan. While not as an “official option” in any of the 3 Concept alternatives, open water swimming (as opposed to a swim beach) is presently being discussed internally within PWSD as a recreation option, both in the form of permitted events, such as triathlon, and on a more routine basis in the form of scheduled hours for swimming (similar to Gravel Pond or Grant Ranch). Since OWS isn’t an official option it is important that we as a community continue to speak up at events and in surveys to ensure that swimming continues to be considered!
The schedule for development of the reservoir is generally:
• June/July 2016 – Finalize the Master Recreation Plan. This Plan will be the result of the planning and input from the February Open Houses.
• 2017 – Limited Events and Organized Activities (such as triathlon or a running race)
• 2018 – Implement the Master Recreation Plan (i.e., “open for recreational business”).
So, it seems that we may be having some new racing options (Xterra and road tris, as well as running races) in 2017!
How you can help shape recreational activities at Rueter-Hess Reservoir
• Attend their Open Houses!
o Saturday, February 20, 2016, 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM, Lone Tree Recreation Center, 10249 Ridgeview Circle Lone Tree, CO
o Saturday, February 27, 2016, 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM, Castle Rock Recreation Center, 2301 N. Woodlands Blvd, Castle Rock, CO
When you attend the Open Houses and fill out the survey, be sure to WRITE IN open water swimming as an option, to let them know that there we want this recreational opportunity at Rueter-Hess.