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River Vision

The continued partnership of The Greenway Foundation and Denver Parks and Recreation has constructed and opened two new parks (Pasquinel’s Landing and Grant Frontier), initiated the re-design of one of the oldest river parks (Globeville Landing), begun planning and design of two great new public spaces along the River (River North Park and the RiNo Promenade), and led a monumental effort to fund the cleanup of historic pollution at the site of Denver’s birthplace (Confluence Park).

Throughout the process, the scope and budget of this suite of transformative projects has continued to grow, adding new funding partners and pushing the total budget of improvements to almost $40M. This is an amazing time in the history of Denver’s South Platte River, and we’re not done yet!

Project details

The goal of the River Vision Implementation project is to make the South Platte River corridor the premier outdoor recreation destination and an environmental educational resource for the city and the state.

The overall project includes three related projects that will enhance sections of the South Platte River and the parks along its banks from West Harvard Avenue in south Denver downstream (north) approximately three miles to West 3rd Avenue in central Denver. All of the projects proposed in this initiative are priorities in the River Vision Implementation Plan (RVIP), completed in 2011 with solid public support.

Thanks to a generous GOCO grant for $4.1 million, and public/private matching funds of over $10 million, the resulting $15 million project is expected to break ground in the Fall of 2013 and be complete in 2015.

Confluence Park – Shoemaker Plaza Reconstruction

The Reconstruction of Shoemaker Plaza was one of the greatest challenges of 2016, as well as one of the best success stories.  The project involves rebuilding the original plaza to improve bike and pedestrian flow, create better access to the river and develop vibrant new gathering spaces at the site of Denver’s birthplace.  However, being along the River in one of the oldest parts of the city also raises the chance of finding material from Denver’s industrial past.

Two months into construction coal tar, a byproduct of historic industrial activity, was found during routine excavation along the river bed.  The project was on hold for 16 months while the team addressed the design, permitting and financial challenges that coal tar presented.  This contaminant fundamentally changed the water control and soil export methodology for the project and ended up doubling the construction cost when all was said and done. 

During this time, TGF was a critical advocate for the project, reminding all involved that the cost of mitigating the coal tar was the price to be paid for the legacy of dumping and pollution along the City’s River.  Ultimately multiple City Departments came together to secure the additional funding and construction restarted in late Summer of 2016.  The collective efforts of TGF, DPR and many other partners resulted in one of the best success stories of 2016, doing the right thing for Confluence Park, the S. Platte River and for the City itself on the site where Denver was born.

The confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek is the historic birthplace of Denver. The revitalization of the River began in the 1970’s with the construction of Shoemaker Plaza, the regional trail and the cantilevered ramps.


View trail detour page for more information.

Master Plan Summary

Confluence Park – Master Plan

Project Guiding Principles:

  • A Unified Whole – Bring all three parts of Confluence Park together as a unique and cohesive public space at the historic birthplace of Denver
  • A Place to Touch the Water – Create ‘Denver’s Beach’ at the confluence of Denver’s two major rivers while simultaneously improving water quality and raising public awareness
  • A “Third Place” – Activate park edges with restaurants and businesses to create a vibrant outdoor living space for Downtown residents, employees and visitors
  • A Venue for Regional Gathering – Enhance the ability for Confluence Park to host major outdoor events, festivals, competitions and other major civic events

Project Summary:

Confluence West

  •    Shoemaker Plaza
  •    SPR Greenway Trail improvements and connections
  •    Enhanced whitewater course

Confluence East

  •    Nuesteiter Plaza
  •    Seating terraces and ramps
  •    Flexible lawn space

Speer Point

  •    Sloping event lawn
  •    Vendor space at point
  •    Ramps from Speer to Cherry Creek trail

Confluence Park – Phase 1: Shoemaker Plaza

Project Goals:

  • Improve bike circulation and access along the SPR Greenway Trail at Confluence West
  • Replace existing ‘zig-zag’ bike and pedestrian ramps
  • Reconstruct and expand Shoemaker Plaza
  • Improve existing whitewater course upstream of Shoemaker Plaza


Project Summary:

  • Pedestrian promenade above the west side of the river
  • Accessible ramp connecting the SPR Greenway Trail under 15th Street
  • Seating terrace overlooking river
  • Expanded event space in Shoemaker Plaza
  • Steps down to river edge
  • Enhanced native and ornamental plantings


The  Denver Urban Waterways Restoration Study
is a project to identify restorative improvements to three major urban waterways (Harvard Gulch, Weir Gulch, and the South Platte River from 6th to 58th Avenues) in the City and County of Denver: sponsored by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Urban Drainage and Flood Control District (UDFCD), City and County of Denver (CCD), and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB).  Learn more.

urban waterways restoration study area map

Ames Construction will be starting construction activities for the Globeville Landing Project Phase 1A in mid-late December. Phase 1A includes the construction of all drainage infrastructure. This phase of the project is expected to be complete in Spring 2018. This phase of construction will be followed by the construction needed for the park amenities (Phase 1B),  which is expected to be complete in Fall of 2018.

The first construction activities will include fencing of the construction site which will limit access in the Globeville Landing Park as well as reduce parking in the Coliseum parking lot.  

Learn more about this project.

Grant Frontier Park

Construction Budget: $3,675,000
Construction Schedule: Completed December 2016

With construction completed in December 2016, the re-opening of Grant Frontier Park marks the end of the initial $16.5M phase of RVIP.  Like Johnson Habitat, the Florida Drop Structure and Pasquinel’s Landing before it, Grant Frontier has been immediately embraced by the surrounding communities, and continues Denver Parks’ commitment to improving amenities and expanding park programs in historically underserved parts of the City.

The re-design of Grant Frontier is all about telling stories.  A series of narrative threads intertwine in the design, much like the braided channel of the river itself.  The very structure of the park tells the story of how we measure and manage the River’s seasonal flood levels.  A series of terraces mark the elevations of the 2-year, 10-year and 100-year flood elevations, which in turn describe the ecological zones from aquatic to riparian to upland.  The thread of history is expressed in the Montana City interpretive area, which tells the story of the first pioneers to settle along the Front Range.  Winding through all of these threads is the story of recreation and natural play, from the regional trail improvements to the boat-launch jetty to the nature themed play experiences.  Grant Frontier Park weaves a rich tapestry from these themes, creating one of the richest park experiences along the S. Platte River.


Continuing the legacy of River access, as envisioned for the South Platte River Greenway in the 1970’s, is a cornerstone of the River Implementation Plan. Boating, tubing, fishing and wildlife watching in an urban environment are the focus of Grant Frontier Park and Overland Regional Park improvements.

Master Plan Summary

Grant Frontier to Overland Pond

Construction Budget:     $7,250,000

Construction start:          June 2014

Construction end:           June 2015

Project Goals:

  • Create a new, multi-use recreational destination along the S. Platte River
  • Reconfigure the drop structures and river channel to improve opportunities for boating, tubing, fishing and wildlife watching
  • Provide multiple new access points to the river for recreation
  • Restore and enhance wetland, riparian and upland habitat along 1.25 miles of river
  • Reimagine, redesign and reconstruct Pasquinel’s Landing and Grant Frontier North Parks to create a series of new ‘River Parks’
  • Increase floodplain volume and conveyance
  • Improve water quality and treatment

Project Summary:

  • Reconstruction of existing Florida drop structure into multiple drop structures upstream to provide safe boating and tubing
  • Various in-river structures to create macro and micro-invertebrate habitat and fish 
  • New ‘River Park’ at Grant Frontier North with secondary channel, island, habitat terraces and environmental play
  • Natural play area with custom play structure, sculptural play elements, natural materials and a water play feature
  • New ‘River Park’ at Pasquinel’s Landing with expanded riparian habitat, walking and hiking trails, riverfront lawn terrace and adult fitness zone
  • 2,500+ lf of S. Platte River channel improvements upstream of Florida
  • 3,000+ lf of new 12’ SPR Trail
  • 4,000+ lf of new soft surface nature trails, benches and overlooks along river
  • Removal of invasive exotic plant species
  • Native wetland, riparian and upland vegetation restoration

River North Park

Construction Budget: $4,200,000
Construction Schedule: Fall 2017 – Fall 2018

Once a run-down industrial backwater almost no park space to speak of, the River North area (RiNo) has emerged as one of the most exciting and fastest developing neighborhoods in the City in recent years.  As with any great neighborhood, high quality park space is a critical component that provides health and wellness infrastructure, accessible public space to gather and celebrate, and a strong identity that reflects the values of the surrounding community.  The new 3.5 acre River North Park will serve all of those roles for the RiNo neighborhood.

River North Park represents the next generation of park design within Denver’s park system:  integrated seamlessly with the neighborhood, embodying the gritty quirkiness of the industrial history and serving as the platform/stage/studio for the RiNo Arts District.  Like all of Denver’s river parks, River North will reconnect the urban neighborhood to the Greenway corridor, the ecology of the S. Platte River and the regional trail system.  The park will have standard programmatic elements (fields, playground, gathering spaces) but the design and material selection will express the neighborhood’s contemporary aesthetic.  Most importantly, the design takes an adaptive reuse approach to the existing buildings, transforming them into flexible spaces for community gatherings, cultural programming and even a public art studio ‘Maker’s Space.’  The Arts District’s engagement with the park and commitment to the creative programming of the reused buildings will result in a park experience unlike anything else in Denver, and will become an exciting and dynamic stop along the S. Platte Greenway.

Public Meeting 1, Visioning: August 13, 2015

Public Meeting 2, Concept design: October 15, 2015

Public Meeting 3, Preferred alternatives: December 3, 2015
Presentation | Site planInterstate buildingMakers Plaza 1Makers Plaza 2

RiNo Promenade

Construction Budget: TBD
Construction Schedule: TBD

The RiNo Promenade is envisioned as a linear walkway along the east bank of the S Platte River in the River North Neighborhood, and will be unique experience within the City, inspired both by the historic esplanades of Europe, modern river walks in American cities and other contemporary linear parks like the Highline in New York City. 

The Promenade will use 6-8 blocks of the existing Arkins Court ROW to create a series of spaces between the RiNo neighborhood and the S. Platte Greenway.  The character of each space will depend on the adjacent land uses and permeability of access.  They include an Urban Residential stretch on the south end, a Park/Open Space segment in the middle near River North Park and a Mixed Use/Entertainment zone to the north which will include adjacent food/beverage and arts/cultural uses.

The aesthetics of the Promenade will reflect the contemporary industrial look and feel of the RiNo neighborhood.  Some of the Arkins Court roadway will remain with strategic removals of asphalt to provide space for landscape, seating and programmatic areas.  The Promenade will be eclectic and dynamic and may include movable planters or other elements that can be reconfigured to create a range of spaces for a variety of activities.  And most importantly, the Promenade is intended to blend with the adjacent land uses, blurring the edges to create a seamless pedestrian experience, a lively and interesting corridor to walk, sit, eat and be entertained, all in the heart of Denver’s funkiest neighborhood overlooking the S. Platte River Greenway.

The proposed promenade will run between 29th and 38th Streets and can serve as a linear park for the neighborhood providing a place for leisure, outdoor recreation, connection to the river, and flexible festival space.

Public Meeting 1: October 25, 2016
Presentation | Meeting Boards

Public Meeting 2: January 11, 2017
Presentation | Meeting Boards

Vanderbilt / Johnson Habitat Parks

Construction Budget:     $5,250,000

Construction start:          March 2014

Construction end:            June 2015


Project Goals:

  •          Reimagine, redesign and reconstruct Johnson Habitat Park into an environmental education center and community park asset
  •          Provide new access points to the river for recreation and education
  •          Create a series of fun and innovative nature play/education elements
  •          Celebrate the rich history of the river
  •          Improve water quality and treatment by collecting and cleaning stormwater through a series of bio-filtration
  •          Increase floodplain volume and conveyance
  •          Improve wildlife habitat


Project Summary:

  •          Environmental education elements including:  river overlook, outdoor classroom with cottonwood themed trellis, urban camping area and    riverside gathering space with firepit
  •          Nature play elements including:  climbing platforms, rock sculptures, wiki-up area, sand play and ‘fox hollow’ 
  •          Signature concrete jetty along river
  •          Flexible turf areas for informal play
  •          1,000+ lf of bank stabilization and riparian restoration along river
  •          3,000+ lf of new 12’ SPR Trail, including new underpasses at Santa Fe Drive and Alameda Avenue
  •          Removal of invasive exotic plant species
  •          Native wetland, riparian and upland vegetation restoration

Master Plan Graphic

Budget:                              $2,700,000

Construction start:          January 2014

Construction end:            August 2014

Project Summary:

  • Signature concrete jetty at confluence of S Platte River and Weir Gulch
  • Signature curved bridge across Weir Gulch along SPR Trail
  • Natural play area with custom play structure, sculptural play elements, natural materials and a water play feature
  • Flexible turf areas for play
  • 900+ lf of Weir Gulch channel improvements
  • 525+ lf of new 12’ SPR Trail
  • 950+ lf of new 10’ Weir Gulch trail
  • Native wetland, riparian and upland vegetation

Project Goals:

  • Create an entry point to SPR Trail with better connections to adjacent bike routes and neighborhood access
  • Restore a more natural drainange corridor along Weir Gulch
  • Increase floodplain volume and conveyance
  • Improve water quality and treatment
  • Improve fish and macro invertebrate habitat
  • Provide natural play area and flexible turf spaces