[Note added by SaveChatfield.org: The following text is a revised version of an article that Front Range Birding published in their August 14, 2012, newsletter. It is reproduced here with permission.]
Those who enjoy Chatfield State Park, or plan to in the future, will be denied the pristine beauty it currently provides if the Army Corps of Engineers has its way. If you like to boat, swim, fish, hike, or especially to bird there, much of that ability will disappear with plans to almost double Chatfield's water storage capacity.
The plan will simply wreak havoc on Chatfield State Park's wide and varied natural habitats of wetlands, Cottonwood trees, and shorelines. These are critical to many native and migrating species of water fowl and shorebirds - not to mention the reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
The plan would raise the lake level by 12 feet. This increased level is a maximum however, considered to only be reached 3 times each decade. The water level would be allowed to fluctuate by as much as 21 feet. This effectively leaves the lake resembling a oversized tub of water surrounded by a vast mudflat unfit for much of the current wildlife use.
Human recreational use will be greatly affected as well. Nearly everything near the water will have to be moved. The current floating marina will have to be re-anchored; it may have to be replaced. At low water levels, swim areas would be 600-700 feet from rebuilt bathrooms and other facilities. Quiet picnic grounds close to the water will be relocated much closer to C-470.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife department has listed 15 anticipated negative recreational impacts and nine impacts detrimental to wildlife from the increased water storage levels. This environmental impact seems to be completely ignored by the proposal.
On the surface there seems to be lacking a true evaluation of alternatives to the Army's Chatfield Plan, even though several palatable ones do exist. There is no question the need for increased water reserves exists for Denver's Front Range. However the devastating result of this plan surely needs further scrutiny and vetting.
There are several great opportunities to gain a better appreciation of Chatfield State Park and its threatened natural resources. Contact the Audubon Society of Greater Denver and go on a "Walk the Wetlands Hike" this September 2nd from 8 AM till Noon. Pre-registration is NOT required. Meet in the parking lot at the Audubon Center at Chatfield. The Audubon Center is located on Waterton Road, 4.4 miles south of C-470 and Wadsworth.
Also the last Saturday of each month, this August 25, join with Master Birder Joey Kellner in Chatfield State Park. Joey's birdwalks are scheduled for 4 hours. Meet inside Chatfield State Park at the Platte River parking lot (just east of Kingfisher Bridge) at 7am. No reservations necessary, just show up! Bring binoculars and scope if you have. Please no pets or small children.
Get Informed! Please call us at Front Range Birding at 303-979-2473 for any questions.
To learn more about the proposal and environmental impact statement, go to www.chatfieldstudy.org or call 866-643-5821. Public comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The comment period will close Sept.6.
From all of us at Front Range Birding,
Have a great Summer Bird Walk
Tom, Diane, Shannon, Dave, Jennifer, Megan, Chuck, and Sara