Denver is semi-arid—it averages about 15 inches of a rain a year, which is why Denver isn’t filled with large trees (at least in areas that aren’t alongside river systems or in well-irrigated greenscapes). In our line of work, it’s critical to consider which plants would grow best with little-to-no irrigation—so they can survive long term in Denver’s climate, without adding strain to the water resources. Yet, we also want to provide an aesthetically pleasing place for people to engage in passive or active recreation and restore ecosystem services that support the overall health of the Denver area.
Great Ecology has been working on the 2017 ASLA Merit Award-winning Stapleton planned community, led by CIVITAS since 2013. Our work has primarily focused on restoring the landscape, including revegetation plans for open space areas. One of the design goals was to create prairie-like landscapes, which restore historic prairie landscapes that used to fill the Denver-Metro area. These prairie-like open spaces are interconnected through a series of trails and underpasses that allow people (and other animals) to safely avoid traffic.
Prairie grasses, and other native plants, tend to have deeper root systems which can increase water infiltration, decrease soil compaction, and provide soil stability. Additionally, they can provide important habitat for a variety of animal species.
The planting plans we assisted with are keyed into each microclimate and microtopography, with a focus on low- to no-irrigation plants. This is coupled with designs that encourage water flow and stormwater detention—which nourishes these plants when rain or other precipitation does occur. We took site-specific soil conditions into consideration, and suggested soil amendments to increase the likelihood of successful early plant establishment and long-term sustainability.
We’re thrilled to have been part of such a great team, and are honored that this project was selected by ASLA’s Colorado Chapter for a 2017 Merit Award for the creation of a water-resilient parks system.