Help us help you help us when visiting our recreation areas

A guide to help keep Denver Water employees, wildlife and visitors safe.

June 15, 2020 | By: Jose Salas

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people and organizations around the world to change how they live and work.

The water Denver Water delivers to its customers remains safe.

But the utility made many changes to help reduce employees’ exposure to COVID-19 and ensure drinking water continued to arrive at homes and businesses.

These changes included closing Waterton Canyon on March 18, as well as other camping and picnic areas around the same time, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Colorado officials.

Waterton Canyon dirt road.
Photo taken by a Denver Water caretaker days before reopening Waterton Canyon to the public. Photo credit: Denver Water.

 

Campsites and picnic areas opened in mid-to-late May, following careful consideration, planning and working with local partners, as part of a phased reopening plan for Denver Water recreation areas.

“While it hasn’t been easy, we’ve been able to open other facilities within the social distancing guidelines as they are around reservoirs where people can spread out or, in the case of the High Line Canal, a long trail with many access points,” said Brandon Ransom, manager of recreation for Denver Water.

“Waterton Canyon presents more challenges as there are limited access points and less ability to spread out since it is a service road for our operation and maintenance crews.”

The next step is to open Waterton Canyon to the public — on weekdays only — starting Monday, June 15.

The canyon will follow normal operating hours during the week, opening a half hour before sunrise and closing a half hour after sunset, and will remain closed on weekends. Denver Water will closely monitor weekday use over the next month to inform a successful weekend opening.

Denver Water understands the value its facilities hold for the community, especially as other areas around the state and nation open for recreation.

Waterton Canyon is a working Denver Water facility as well as living quarters for some of the utility’s employees and their families. Employees use the single road up the canyon 24/7/365 to maintain the many elements of the facility.

Having people in the canyon for recreation makes things more challenging.

The single road is often the site of congestion at the entrance and further up, especially when wildlife is on or near the road and people gather to watch and take pictures. Regular visitors to the canyon are likely familiar with its friendly resident bighorn sheep.

If you plan to visit Waterton Canyon or any of Denver Water’s recreation areas, the utility encourages visitors to follow safety guidelines:

  • Wear face masks and maintain a safe social distance from others.
  • Limit gathering around wildlife and blocking the service road.
  • Bring water as facilities may be limited or unavailable.
  • Denver Water staff have limited ability to provide support in case of emergencies.
  • Park in a safe and responsible manner at the assigned parking lots.
  • Those who do not follow parking regulations may be ticketed and/or towed.

Additional guidelines:Welcome to waterton canyon sign with information for guest.

“Waterton Canyon is a popular recreation destination and we recognize the closure was an inconvenience. We ask the public to help us keep our resources and employees safe,” said Heath Stuerke, Strontia Springs Dam supervisor.

“The recent closure did allow us to improve the recreation experience by performing our annual dust mitigation project, which always requires us to close the canyon for a few weeks.”

In addition to Waterton Canyon, Denver Water offers recreation opportunities at eight other operational facilities with a wide range of options, including camping, boating, fishing and hiking.

For more information or updates on the status of Denver Water’s recreation facilities, please visit denverwater.org/Recreation.

6 thoughts on “Help us help you help us when visiting our recreation areas”

  1. I am terribly disappointed that the canyon is closed to ebikes.

    I have been biking the canyon for over 25 years. However, as I have aged “75” and am no longer physically able to ride up with my bike. My ebike is a peddle assist class 1 bike.

    It doesn’t make noise, and requires the rider to peddle.
    Please reconsider the banning e bikes.

    1. Hi Domenico,
      Thanks for your question. Ebikes are not allowed in Waterton Canyon due to a recreation agreement between Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service, which doesn’t allow ebikes on any of the land it manages. Denver Water and the Forest Service both own and manage property in the canyon.

      Devices approved by the Americans with Disabilities Act are permitted in the canyon and we can evaluate individual cases if someone asks us to consider their ebike as a mobility device under ADA guidance. You can reach out to recreation@denverwater.org with this request.

      1. First of all, the statement “U.S. Forest Service, which doesn’t allow ebikes on any of the land it manages” is false. The Forest Service does indeed allow ebikes on about 40% of it’s trails. https://www.fs.usda.gov/visit/e-bikes. Also, prohibiting people with disabilities from using their ebikes in this Canyon is discrimination according to the Americans with Disability Act. https://electricbikereport.com/americans-with-disabilities-act-revisions-open-bike-paths-and-rails-to-trails-to-cyclists-with-disabilities/ and https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/titleII_2010/titleII_2010_withbold.htm

        The governments of Denver, the state of Colorado and the United States pride themselves on providing access to those of us who are handicapped. Not allowing the disabled to ride into and enjoy this canyon is arbitrary, cruel and has no basis in fact. It also appears that this regulation is not in compliance with ADA regulations.

        1. Hello Irv,

          We’re in touch with you through other channels but want to make sure your concern and response are also addressed publicly here.

          We appreciate you sharing your concerns about the e-bike policy in Waterton Canyon. Denver Water has been and continues to discuss and evaluate how we can move forward with our partners regarding recreation restrictions in the future.

          For some background, in Waterton Canyon, Denver Water is the owner of portions of this path and most of the facilities in the canyon. There are also other entities in the canyon, including the U.S. Forest Service that own portions of the path. The U.S. Forest Service classifies the canyon as a “non-motorized path.”

          To ensure a mutual understanding for how we manage Waterton Canyon for recreation, Denver Water entered into the 1979 Foothills Agreement with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The agreement prohibits the use of motorized devices in the canyon. We are committed to having discussions to help find the best solutions with our partners and for our community, which will require a formal process that will take time.

          Class 1 and 2 e-bikes used as part of an ADA accommodation in Waterton Canyon are permitted on Denver Water’s portion of the path, depending on the size, weight and speed of the device, so long as it wouldn’t cause a safety risk because of crowds or trail conditions (e.g. on a busy day) and so long as the requestor can provide credible assurance that they require an accommodation to access the facility.

          As we’ve stated, we will continue to work with those seeking ADA accommodations in Waterton Canyon and you can contact our recreation staff at recreation@denverwater.org. You will need to be able to provide credible assurance that you require an accommodation to access the facility before arriving. As a reminder, Denver Water can only grant permission for use on its property and does not have authority over the road owned by U.S. Forest Service. There are clear signs noting the demarcation of property owned by Denver Water and by the U.S. Forest Service.

          Denver Water strives to offer as many recreational activities as possible while also maintaining a safe, efficient environment for recreational users and the workers that share the canyon.

      2. Cathy – The US Forest Service does allow ebikes on the land they manage with few exceptions. These regulations were changed some time ago. Does your reply above take this into account?

        1. For some background, in Waterton Canyon, Denver Water is the owner of portions of this path and most of the facilities in the canyon. There are also other entities in the canyon, including the U.S. Forest Service that own portions of the path. The U.S. Forest Service classifies the canyon as a “non-motorized path.”

          To ensure a mutual understanding for how we manage Waterton Canyon for recreation, Denver Water entered into the 1979 Foothills Agreement with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The agreement prohibits the use of motorized devices in the canyon. We are committed to having discussions to help find the best solutions with our partners and for our community, which will require a formal process that will take time.

          Class 1 and 2 e-bikes used as part of an ADA accommodation in Waterton Canyon are permitted on Denver Water’s portion of the path, depending on the size, weight and speed of the device, so long as it wouldn’t cause a safety risk because of crowds or trail conditions (e.g. on a busy day) and so long as the requestor can provide credible assurance that they require an accommodation to access the facility.

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