April 29, 2014 Updated: April 29, 2014 at 11:20 pm
After months of analysis and community discussion, Colorado Springs officials are moving forward on one of three proposed drainage improvement options to tackle flooding in the Camp Creek watershed on the west side of the city.
"They (the residents) expressed a favorite," said Camp Creek project manager Mike Chaves during a community meeting and open house at Coronado High School on Tuesday evening, where officials announced their plan.
The $36 million project includes a "naturalistic channel stabilization" in Garden of the Gods Park and Rock Ledge Ranch, replacement of the Camp Creek Bridge, widening of pavement on Gateway Road, a realignment of a few trails, replacement of culverts and bridges on the 31st Street channel and replacement of the existing concrete- and rock-lined channel in 31st Street.
The new channel will feature a more natural look, officials said.
A plan also is being developed to relocate on-road bike lanes, which will be moved from 31st Street to 30th Street.
The plan, Chaves said, "preserves a historic feature that the neighborhood enjoys."
The plan is expected to reduce flooding hazards along 31st Street, while moving dozens of homes and commercial businesses from the 100-year floodplain risk zone.
It is also designed to manage erosion and sedimentation with the help of a detention pond that will be constructed in north Garden of the Gods. It's estimated the pond will be completed in six years.
Open house attendees voiced concerns about possible impacts on parking, traffic speed, bike lanes, flood insurance rates and trees.
While city officials didn't have definitive answers for all of their questions, they emphasized they will be sensitive to locals' concerns when they draw up final plans.
City officials said they considered neighborhood aesthetics, the safety of children and animals, parking availability and traffic and noise concerns when selecting the final plan.
They believe the project will address most concerns, Chaves said.
But not all of them.
Karen Dosch said she was frustrated that she couldn't get all of the answers to her questions Tuesday.
"At least they're trying," she said. "They don't have a definitive plan . they don't have funding."
Dosch has lived in Pleasant Valley for 25 years and has several concerns about parking because the proposed plan calls for narrowing 31st Street.
"The parking at the school can't take any more narrowing," she told officials, referring to Howbert Elementary School.
"There is a parking issue right now," she said.
Speeding on the street also is a concern, and one resident who lives on 31st Street called it a drag strip.
However, "narrowing the street encourages people to drive slow," Chaves said.
Dosch said she hopes to get more answers eventually, but she's happy the city is working with the community.
"I've emailed them and gotten responses right away. So they're very responsive," she said.
"It's been a good process for everyone to get their concerns out."
Next, officials will finish a cultural resources assessment plan, begin the process for FEMA floodplain revisions and create plans for construction.
Then they'll pursue funding for the project, which could come from any number of sources including grants, stormwater fees and bond sales.
The city should support efforts to fund the work, said resident Jon Peters.
"I love the idea of 31st being beautiful," he said. "I don't know where the city portion of the funding will come from if we don't start thinking more grandiose."
Because the project was one of the top drainage improvement projects identified, Chaves is confident it will get funded.