Improving the Highline Canal Trail: University Hills “Main Street”

Recently, the UHNA submitted a grant request with the Sustainable Neighborhoods Program through the City and County of Denver. Our grant centered around needed improvements to the Highline Canal, the Highline Canal Trail, and Eisenhower Park. Unfortunately, we were turned down.

BUT . . . from lemons, lemonade!

We think any efforts we make to improve our parks and canal are well worth the effort, and will eventually yield good results. We will be going ahead on our promise to improve the Highline Canal Trail. We will be working with local sponsors and our neighbors to have at least one (maybe two) Canal Clean Up Days. Look here and in your emails for dates and ideas.

In the mean time, please review our grant proposal, and be sure to give us feedback, ideas, omitted items, suggestions, and the like. What improvements do you want for the Highline Canal, the Trail, and Eisenhower Park?


Andy Farr, UHNA President

(Note: The Images below were among those included in the earlier proposal)

FullSizeRender IMG_0781

UHNA’s Grant Request:

  1. History of the Highline Canal

Since the 1880’s, the Highline Canal has served an important function, bringing water from the Platte River to Front Range farms and reservoirs. When the University Hills neighborhood was built after World War II, part of the canal was incorporated as a key feature of Eisenhower Park, and another part became a public footpath through the neighborhood.

  1. Current Condition of Highline Canal

Many generations later, the Highline Canal is a tremendous resource for recreation and transportation in Southeast Denver. Many segments are tidy and groomed, but others have fallen into disrepair. In University Hills, the first segment through Eisenhower Park is generally well-kept, but the associated path is now crumbling asphalt. The residential path section has become overgrown and infested with non-native plants, the path has crumbled, and the canal itself has become a series of stagnant pools. Erosion has begun to undercut the pathway. The bridge and entry to the trail at Forest Avenue has a steep path from one side and a narrow bridge with steps from the other side, non-compliant with ADA guidelines. Sadly, the quieter sections of the canal trail have become an area of attraction for vagrancy, and after dark it feels unsafe.

III. Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

Despite these problems, the Highline Canal is an amazing neighborhood resource, and the University Hills Neighborhood Association has begun a program to assure that urgent repairs and positive improvements are made. We hope our small steps to sustainability will encourage the City and County of Denver and Denver Water to make larger investments in the future.

The canal can be an important asset for three of the four major plans that the City and County of Denver is currently undertaking. The canal trail connects several sections of our neighborhood to a point close to the RTD Light Rail at Yale Station and shopping areas on Hampden Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, keeping pedestrian and bike traffic off busy thoroughfares. This is a key point of the new Denver Transit Master Plan. The car-free trail also encourages our residents to walk and bike more often, which is a primary goal of Denver Moves, the city plan to increase the number of people using human powered means to commute. And finally, the Highline Canal is a great place to exercise, and with a few improvements, it could be a real asset in Denver Parks & Recreation’s Game Plan.

All of these improvements will require large capital expenditures, of course. And with that in mind, the UHNA has decided that our neighborhood should do more than just complain and lobby for the needed changes. So, it is the intent of the UHNA, in cooperation with the Highline Canal Preservation Association and local business sponsors to demonstrate our commitment to our resource by creating Spring and Fall trail cleanups and purging of non-native plants. With minimal resources and valued direction from the City and County of Denver, we would like to establish a semi-annual program that would get local residents involved in restoring, repairing, and improving our sections of the Highline Canal Trail. Beyond simple cleanups, we envision adding additional garbage cans and pet waste stations. If we cannot remediate the dangerous undercut sections of the trail, we can at least improve the markings and barriers above the standard of stakes and barricade fencing.

  1. First Steps to Sustainability

The UHNA would like to utilize available city services during these scheduled cleanup days. We will need city police and qualified maintenance workers to sweep the canal and diagnose any potential hazards. We would like assistance from city arborists and botanists to educate residents on non-native species and direct our teams on how to remove them. And we would seek city help in promoting the event, and providing tools and equipment, as well as approved trashcans and pet stations.

The UHNA’s long term goal is to build a recognized and sustainable semi-annual public event which demonstrates our commitment to keeping our canal trail safe, clean, and healthy. Becoming a recognized sustainable program would give the UHNA leverage when seeking addition improvements to Eisenhower Park and the Highline Canal Trail from the city. We believe our small investments can persuade the City and County of Denver to make larger investments in preserving our neighborhood’s best asset.

  1. Itemized Small-Scale Improvements (UHNA and Local Sponsors)
  • Three additional trashcans along pedestrian footpath
  • Two pet waste stations
  • Improved barricades at unsafe spots along canal
  • Abatement of non-native plants
  • Removal of debris and garbage
  • Improved monitoring by neighborhood residents
  • Increased patrolling by Denver Police
  1. Itemized (Future) Large-Scale Capital Improvements
  • Eight foot concrete pathway (standard at Bible Park)
  • Three foot compacted gravel apron adjacent to pathway (running path)
  • New ADA compliant bridge and approach at Forest Avenue
  • Erosion remediation and repair at narrow points along canal
  • Outdoor cross-fit or exercise stations in Eisenhower Park and along canal
  • Xeriscaping along trail
  • New trees to replace century Cottonwood and Ash trees
  • New plantings and entrance design at Forest Street entrances
  • New signage at entrances

VII. Commitment to Sustainability

The UHNA is committed to making positive changes in University Hills that demonstrate our desire to keep our neighborhood safe, friendly and active. The Highline Canal Trail and Eisenhower Park are the heart and soul of University Hills. Keeping these two assets healthy and vibrant is fundamental to keeping University Hills a sustainable neighborhood. The UHNA wants assistance from the City and County of Denver to make small but firm steps toward sustainability of our two treasures.

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