Fountain Creek Watershed Outreach in Pueblo, CO
The Fountain Creek was historically named Fontaine qui Bouille (“boiling fountain”) by French traders and trappers in the early 1800’s. The water ebbs, flows, and gushes through urban and rural areas as it tumbles down from the Pikes Peak range and turns south to eventually converge with the Arkansas River in Pueblo, CO. Pueblo residents and visitors are affected by and curious about the issues on the Creek. As the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District (FCWD) Board desired more outreach in the “Home of Heroes,” they sought a grant from the Xcel Energy Foundation.
FCWD was awarded the grant of $10,000 to create a series of programs targeted to all ages on watershed health, provide hands-on volunteer opportunities, and create tools and resources geared to help sustain a healthy waterway in the Pueblo community. Susan Finzel, long-time outreach specialist and District Pueblo Outreach Coordinator, joined the FCWD team to plan and lead activities to increase public awareness August 2022-June 2023.
2022 Creek Week
During the 2022 Creek Week Cleanup, 125 Pueblo volunteers were recruited and worked diligently to collect and remove an astonishing 1,640 lbs. of trash, debris, and heavy items along the waterway. Crews cleaned near the bike trails, around Runyon Lake, in area parks, and even along the Arkansas River. The grant paid for promotion, giveaways, materials, and more. Local coffee shops offered in-kind donations and gift cards to the volunteers. Participating groups and supporters from schools, private businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits plus one dedicated kayaker made the creek corridor look so much better over the nine day program.
Over 50 Boys & Girls Club of Pueblo County members and their staff took part in a fishing derby during Creek Week 2022 at Lake Pueblo State Park’s Anticline Pond. Fishing poles, bait, and expert advice from parks staff helped youth catch and release the stocked rainbow trout. Derby sponsorship from BCER Engineering and the I Will Projects was greatly appreciated.
The kids heard an educational presentation on watershed health, fish anatomy, ecology, and fishing etiquette. Everyone enjoyed a donated cookout lunch and took home prizes.
Watershed pollution prevention sessions were presented to 150 elementary school students in Pueblo’s eastside neighborhood. Student teams were enthusiastic to go out to collect litter in the flood plain adjacent to their school grounds - some venturing to the Creek for the first time. These youngsters have a growing self-perception as environmental stewards/conservationists.
Pueblo now has four breweries that have joined the Brewshed Alliance: Brues Alehouse, Reservoir Brewing in Pueblo West, Shamrock Brewing, and Walter’s Brewery and Taproom. Two locations hosted Liquid Lectures in the last year where adults heard about watershed projects, played Brewshed bingo, and learned about the abundant farm produce grown in Pueblo county with river and creek irrigation.
Great American Cleanup
In April, a dedicated contingent of Puebloans participated in the one-day Great American CleanUp, a national event promoted by Keep America Beautiful. Target™ employees, real estate agents, Berkey Water Filter™ employees, and five other groups picked up litter despite the early snow flurries. Walter’s Brewery employees formed a crew, and then hosted a pizza party for all volunteers.
The Xcel grant provided staffing and materials for various information tables at events in Pueblo such as the Western Landscape Symposium, Indigenous Music and Art Festival on Earth Day, and the Pueblo County Fair. Over 300 people learned about the watershed and received handouts and giveaways including water conservation shower timers and bike trail maps illustrating trailheads along the Creek.
The first ever “Family Fest @ the Fountain” event was held May 6th at El Centro Del Quinto Sol Rec Center grounds directly adjacent to the Fountain Creek Bike Trail at 8th St. in Pueblo. City Councilmember and FCWD Board Member Larry Atencio and FCWD Director Allison Schuch opened the event that welcomed 125 visitors over five hours. With beautiful spring weather, cultural dance troupes, live raptors, and a guitarist entertained the crowd. A local elementary school 5th grade created banners naming 50 different flora and fauna species that live along the creek. Xcel Energy provided free LED light bulbs to all visitors.
A Strategic Plan Forum was also held in May at Rawlings Library to share FCWD history and successes and then gather feedback. About 15 Pueblo citizens discussed their opinions, needs, and wants for the watershed in the present and for the future.
The FCWD budget provided matching funds to make this year-long effort in Pueblo a success. The FCWD is pleased to announce that the Xcel Energy Foundation has renewed the Pueblo outreach funding through June 2024 so that the community at the confluence will benefit from more cleanups, education, and improved awareness of conservation issues.
Partnerships formed in Pueblo with Xcel Energy Foundation support
LatinX Organizations: Latino Chamber of Commerce, RMSER Empowerment Center, El Centro De Quito Sol Rec Center, Ballet De Folklorico Dance Troop, Grupo Chicomecoatl Dancers, Boys & Girls Club of Pueblo
Education: Fountain International Magnet School, Haaff Elementary, Bradford Elementary, Risley Middle School, Heaton Middle School, CSU-Pueblo, Pueblo Community College
Non Profit Organizations: The I Will Projects, Pueblo Friends of the Arkansas, Keep Pueblo Beautiful, Pueblo Lions Club, Pueblo Downtown Assoc., Pueblo Zoo, Arkansas Valley Audubon Society
Government Agencies: CO Parks & Wildlife, City of Pueblo Stormwater Department, Pueblo County Public Works, Pueblo Dept. of Public Health & Environment, CSU Extension Service-Pueblo County, Pueblo Chemical Agent Pilot Plant, Pueblo Conservancy District, Pueblo City-County Library District
Private Businesses: Professional Bull Riders Assoc., Nick’s Dairy Creme, Little Caesars, Gypsy Javas, Maggie’s Farm, Berkey Filters, Brues Alehouse, Shamrock Brewing Co., Walters Brewery and Taproom, Reservoir Brewing, Solar Roast Coffee