The Lower Willow Creek Restoration Project was created by the Lower Willow Creek Restoration Company (LWCRCo) to address the floodplain below the City of Creede. The site was contaminated by heavy metals from upstream sediment from the Creede Mining District and from onsite storage of mill tailings. The storage of tailings occurred from the 1900s to the 1960’s. The site was left untouched until 1988 when the site’s mine waste was consolidated into a tailings pile on the east side of the creek. This created the site’s fomer conditions of cobbley soil devoid of vegetation. In 2011 the Lower Willow Creek Restoration Company was formed to manage the Lower Willow Creek Restoration Project. In 2013, the LWCRCo completed the first phase of the project, to create a new channel that delivered water to diversions, slowed the energy of the creek and created backwater areas to rehabilitate the riparian zone.
Subsequent work done in Phase II and Phase III will cap the site with clean soil and plant native plant species, and create passive recreational opportunities for residents and visitors of Creede. The LWCRCo was awarded an EPA Brownfields Cleanup Grant in 2015 to cap the site with clean soil from Airport Corner. This funding is matched by a Colorado Water Conservation Board Water Supply Reserve Account Grant. Construction is anticipated to begin Fall/Winter 2015.
The first phase of our project transformed the site to create a beautiful natural channel. Other project tasks included:
- Increased channel sinuosity
- Increased channel length from 5280 feet to 7200 feet
- Installed two water diversion boxes to deliver water rights to rights holders
- Installed 17 rock vanes to control channel speed and direction
- Hauled over 20,000 cubic yards of rock/soil/sand to meet design grade
Phase I project partners include: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment-Nonpoint Source Program, Colorado Brownfields Foundation, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, Hecla Charitable Foundation, Casey Resources, Inc., SLV Earthmovers, Inc., City of Creede, RW Contracting, and the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee. Thanks for all your support!
The second phase of this project is just getting under way! Plans for Phase II include:
- Importing ~20,000 cubic yards of clean soil from Airport Corner
- Grading the project to site grade
- Large scale native seeding and planting
- Volunteer planting opportunities
We anticipate hauling soil to begin Fall/Winter of 2015. Funding for this project will be made possible by the EPA Brownfields Program and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Please stay tuned for further updates!
Phase III planning has not yet begun. The LWCRCo has already received input and taken into consideration three elements as we build the site’s recreation opportunities. Read more on that below. We know that the community is eager to participate, and are willing to take suggestions. Please contact us with any suggestions. Otherwise, look out for public input notices.
The site currently has a well used trail that connects Creede to the Rio Grande, outlying subdivisions and the new Creede Schools. A vital component of this project is to link all these areas together.
Currently the trail does not cross the creek, and there is no safe way to cross. We anticipate installing bridges to allow people to enjoy all 108 acres of the site.
Creede is a well known artist’s town. Already the community has begun creating art in the floodplain. We will continue to encourage Creede to create a sense of place on the site.