Early on Saturday afternoon, the doorbell rang. I answered it, fully expecting one or two young people with clipboards to be at the door, like usual, but much to my pleasant surprise it was the four-some on the photo above. This team was part of a volunteer group from the University of Colorado called C.U. Boulder Volunteer Resource Center, a group that gives a day a month to helping in the community. On this day, they were helping their own residential neighborhood clean up after the flood.
We did have a job looming — to get our trash to the curbside for pick-up this coming week — the removed carpet, drywall, and box contents from the basement. So, I invited them to help. They were thrilled to have found a taker for their services. The four of them worked for an hour and a half, alongside my husband, and got everything out to the curb.
That’s merely one example, a very personal one, of how this community has come together during and following a crisis. I’ve been astounded at how quickly repairs are being made and how quickly this city is getting back to normal.
If anyplace could come through a thousand year rain with flying colors, a place where multiple canyons feed water into town, it would be, well, Boulder.
I got giddy a few nights ago when I was the very first person to use a newly opened bike underpass following the flood. The worker was still standing there and had just opened the “closed” gate. It was so much sooner than I expected, and I’d been in that spot the day before and saw it closed.
Boulder did quite a good job of preparing for this event. Our renowned bicycle trails which I personally think are a fantastic amenity to our city were, in part, planned and paid for with flood mitigation monies years ago.
The following excerpt is taken from www.bicyclinginfo.org/ and was written by Transportation Planner, Cris Jones:
In 1910, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. warned the city of Boulder of the dangers of allowing development to encroach upon the floodplain of Boulder Creek. He recommended against the construction of a deep, artificial flood channel to facilitate development in the floodplain. Instead he suggested that Boulder Creek be allowed to remain in a small shallow channel for the ordinary stages of the stream, while including a much broader floodplain as a channel during larger storms. Recognizing the need to dedicate this floodplain land to a useful purpose, he suggested creating a space for public use.
In 1969, a moderate flood affected the city of Boulder. The following decade marked the city’s first serious flood control efforts. Initial investigations focused on traditional flood mitigation techniques, such as hard-lining stream channels and using concrete structural facilities to channelize stream flow. These plans, however, conflicted with the city’s commitment to improve both quality of life and the urban environment, and evoked considerable public opposition.
With the goal of maintaining and enhancing the aesthetic and environmental integrity of Boulder Creek and its tributaries, the city decided to pursue alternative solutions to flood control. In 1978, the city adopted a “non-containment” policy for Boulder Creek as part of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan. This policy promoted ongoing city efforts to protect public safety by restricting development within the floodplain of Boulder Creek and its tributaries.
In 1984, the city adopted the Boulder Creek Corridor Plan that recommended development of a continuous path along the entire length of Boulder Creek. This corridor would serve both as a flood hazard mitigation measure and as a continuous urban park for recreational and transportation use. It would also serve to restore and enhance wetlands along with fish and wildlife habitats.
The construction of a continuous shared-use facility required separated grade crossings at each intersection throughout the corridor. Existing creek underpasses were converted to include shared-use path underpasses through fairly simple modifications. Upon its completion, the Boulder Creek Path was instantly popular and quickly became a much loved community amenity.
The public acclaim of the Boulder Creek project led to an increase in public discussion about the desirability of extending and continuing the concept of the Boulder Creek project along Boulder Creek’s tributaries within the city. As a result, the city designated over 32.2 km (20 mi) of stream corridors along six tributaries of Boulder Creek for inclusion in the Greenways Program.
Today, the city of Boulder is home to more than 55 underpasses built to serve bicyclists and pedestrians. While most new underpass projects are driven by the transportation department, underpasses often have benefits beyond transportation. New underpasses along Boulder’s greenways have increased flood carrying capacity and improved the natural environmental systems along Boulder Creek and its tributaries.
Those Olmsted inspired underpasses did just what they were supposed to do during a flood and they held up well, too.
Incidentally, the farmers market also looked very normal on Saturday.
There is a spirit here that is special. I felt it the first time I set foot in this town. To some, we’re viewed as an odd mix of ambiguities, eccentricities, hipsters, crystal-toters, leftist wing-nuts, foodies, students, educators, artists, dreamers, trustifarians, world class athletes, geeks, and scientists, but somehow it all seems to work out right in the end. If you’d like to experience a sample of what I mean by ambiguity, and the indomitable spirits who choose to dwell here, sometimes lacking in better judgement, see this video of crazy bikers going down Left Hand Canyon after the flood.
And a big thank you to our angel helpers from CU.