By Libby Smith

DENVER (CBS4) – The High Line Canal is a 71-mile recreational trail running from Waterton Canyon in Douglas County to the end of the trail in Adams County near Denver International Airport.

“The 71-mile historic canal was originally hand dug back in the 1880’s, before Colorado was a state, as a way to bring water to the arid plains and develop the region,” said Harriet LaMair, Executive Director of the High Line Canal Conservancy.

(credit: CBS)

The Conservancy is a tax-exempt nonprofit formed in 2014, to provide leadership to enhance and permanently protect  the High Line Canal. It’s outlived its purpose as a water delivery method. More than 80-percent of the water diverted to the canal seeps into the ground and evaporates prior to reaching its paying water customer. So one of the biggest challenges facing the Conservancy was to come up with new uses for the canal.

“Storm water transition, really confusing to people, but basically the water source in the High Line Canal is being changed. It’s becoming a means of really filtering and managing storm water while benefiting the trees,” LaMair explained.

(credit: CBS)

The Conservancy is putting in infrastructure that will gather rain runoff into the canal where it can feed the 24,000 trees that span the canal, and be filtered and returned into existing waterways.

“We’re doing localized improvement areas, activating the canal, mile markers are up along the canal. Another thing we’re doing that, I think users will really understand the need for is wayfinding signage.  People get so confused on the High Line. It’s so incredibly twisty, you have no idea where you are. There’ll be little signs at each of the crossings, trailheads, and bridges,” LaMair said.

(credit CBS)

The High Line Canal trail crosses 11 jurisdictions, and attracts about 500,000 users each year. So another major objective for the Conservancy is to make the trail continuous and safe. To that end, in June, the Conservancy, along with Arapahoe County and the City and County of Denver, cut the ribbon on two completed underpasses and a quarter mile of new trail that connected the High Line Canal trail across Hampden and Colorado Blvd. Before the underpasses, trail users had to navigate crossing two very busy roads in order to pick up the trail, or turn around. Now, the trail is connected allowing users to pass between localities.

(credit CBS)

From August 1st through October 10th, the Conservancy is hosting Walk FOR the Canal, to raise money for these projects and regular maintenance of the greenway.  The challenge is to set a distance based goal. Collect donations, win prizes, and get moving outdoors.

“All the funds raised will come to the Conservancy and be shared with local governments, as well as, to support our community stewardship programs such as trash cleanups, tree plantings, week removals and more,” LaMair said.

To sign up to Walk FOR The Canal go to highlinecanal.org/walk.

Libby Smith