Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park Now Re-Open
Tom Hacker, public information officer, City of Loveland 970.962.2302, cell 970.800.1814, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelly Smith, park planner and project manager, City of Loveland 970.962.2478, Kelly.email@example.com
VIESTENZ-SMITH MOUNTAIN PARK OPEN
LOVELAND, Sept. 29, 2018 –
Five years after the Big Thompson flood, the City of Loveland Parks & Recreation Department and Larimer County are proud to announce Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park is now re-open. Located at 1211 W. Hwy 34 in Loveland and four miles west of the entrance to Big Thompson Canyon, this beloved mountain park holds great historical and sentimental significance to the community.
The September 2013 flood caused devastating damage to the historic Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park, resulting in its closure to the public for more than five years. During the flood, the river breached and cut south toward Highway 34, taking the same path as it did during the 1976 flood. The rechannelization caused severe bank erosion and scoured away most park elements south of the Big Thompson River. It destroyed a pedestrian bridge, parking lot, sidewalks, irrigation pond, playground, picnic areas, memorial plantings, benches, landscaping and trails. The flood also washed away a historic Civilian Conservation Corps structure and damaged the hydroelectric building enough to warrant demolition.
In late 2014, the City began planning the reconstruction of the park with the goal of improving resiliency during future flood events. The project includes several restoration techniques that are buried or concealed to create a more natural-looking mountain park. “The park was designed to be more resilient during future flood events, which resulted in a change to the park’s character,” said Elizabeth Kayl, Director of Loveland’s Parks and Recreation Department.
The park will no longer resemble an urban, manicured park with irrigated turf, playgrounds and reservable shelters. Instead, it will serve as a mountain park that blends with the canyon’s natural environment. Park activities celebrate the natural surroundings and nature-based activities such as hiking, picnicking and fishing. “Native grasses have replaced turf, and an ADA accessible multi-tiered fishing platform has replaced the playground,” said Kelly Smith, Park Planner with the City of Loveland.
Bioengineered streambanks and “river-training” elements now guide the river and protect park infrastructure. An expanded floodplain bench provides an undeveloped expanse for swelling floodwaters. Riffles and pools have been strategically placed within the river to provide habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species. More observable resiliency measures include the relocation of the river channel further south and the concentration of major park infrastructure outside the 100-year floodplain.
“Moving a river, armoring its streambanks, improving aquatic and terrestrial habitat, and rebuilding a park is no small feat,” said Merinda Bennett, Construction Manager with the City of Loveland. “Construction lasted over two years and required multiple phases and funding sources.”
The rebuilding of Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park was made possible thanks to a $2.1 million disaster recovery reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a $500,000 disaster recovery grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Disaster Recovery Program, and $389,000 in City insurance coverage.