Denver-area surfers rejoice: There’s a new wave to catch on the South Platte River.
On June 5, officials from South Suburban Parks and Recreation District and several partner agencies dedicated a new stretch of the Mary Carter Greenway, the bike trail that stretches along the South Platte, adding a mile to the East Bank Trail.
The new trail, which runs between Union Avenue on the south to Oxford Avenue on the north, runs parallel to an older trail on the west side of the river. It’s designed to alleviate some of the congestion on what’s becoming a heavily-used two-wheeled highway, said South Suburban park planner Pam Cornelisse.
“This has been a primarily industrial area for a long time,” Cornelisse said of the trail, which is sandwiched between an aggregate mill, a metal recycling facility and a junkyard. “But we’re reclaiming it into a place to be enjoyed.”
But the real action at the dedication was down in the river itself, where surfers splashed in the wake of a “hydraulic wave shaper,” a narrow chute that creates a wave that can be adjusted up or down by park employees.
The new wave shaper joins another just downstream installed in 2016 at Englewood’s River Run Park, said Ken McKenzie, executive director of the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, which was instrumental in reworking the stretch of river.
The stretch joins an increasing number of aquatic amenities along the river, McKenzie said, a big shift from just a couple decades ago.
In the 1990s, McKenzie said, he once burned through half a roll of film taking photos of a canoe going down the river.
“It was so unusual to see anyone recreating in the river back then,” McKenzie said. “Today we see it all the time, and we’re thrilled. People take care of what they love.”
The wave shaper is a welcome addition for river surfers, said J.B. Breidenbaugh, owner of Littleton’s Altitude Paddleboards.
“It’s a tremendous safety improvement” over the old spillover dams in about the same spot on the river, Breidenbaugh said. “I can bring friends and novice paddlers here, and not worry they’re going to get banged up.”
The trail, too, is a big step toward reclaiming the stretch of river from decades of neglect, said Robert Searns, the Mary Carter Greenway’s project developer.
“We’ve turned No Man’s Land into a park,” Searns said of the new stretch of the trail.
The work of improving the Mary Carter Greenway will never truly be done, Searns said.
“But,” he said, “anyone can see it’s really coming into its prime.”
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