Gebhard Integrated Site Project (ISP)

Current Phase
Implement

Project Overview

The Gebhard Integrated Site Project seeks to provide access to the South Boulder Creek corridor while protecting rare and federally threatened wildlife and plant species in an area east of the East Boulder Community Center. In 2018, Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) sought public feedback on this effort and presented a site plan to help manage the area to the Open Space Board of Trustees, which the board accepted in January 2020. Read the memo that OSMP staff prepared for the Open Space Board of Trustees. Goals for the project include:

  1. Conducting restoration of riparian habitat along the west side of the creek between East Boulder Recreation Center and South Boulder Road as part of the ongoing larger restoration project along all South Boulder Creek

  1. Providing access to the existing designated trail system on the east side of the creek in a way that aligns with the neighborhood’s interests and values.

However, OSMP decided to pause its implementation of the Gebhard Integrated Site Project (ISP) following the discovery of New Zealand Mudsnails (NZMS) in South Boulder Creek.

Project Updates

OSMP recognizes the importance of protecting habitats and providing community access in the South Boulder Creek corridor and has been working to implement items in a site management plan that the Open Space Board of Trustees reviewed and accepted in January 2020. OSMP staff provided to the Open Space Board of Trustees an overview of current efforts in a written memo for the board’s Jan. 11, 2023 meeting.

Current implementation plans will detail the design described in the site management plan and is anticipated to include:

  • A bridge that will link the west side trail to the east side trail system that minimizes grading and impacts to the area and does not impact the floodplain.

  • A trail that will connect the Greenbelt Meadows neighborhood to the new bridge along the route of a portion of the existing social trail through that area.

  • A possible accessible crossing that is dependent on further conversations with ditch owners in the area.

  • Continued opportunities to enjoy a public access point where OSMP plans to conduct creek stabilization work to support diverse vegetation and allow people to access the creek without harming the riparian zone.

  • Restoration efforts to remove invasive species like crack willows and teasel, and add new cottonwood trees and other plantings that support the wetland and riparian systems.

  • A fish passage that will replace the existing concrete dam with a series of boulder steps that will allow fish to move freely through South Boulder Creek.

  • Volunteer projects that engage community members in active stewardship of the area may include seed collection, invasive species removal, and volunteer ranger activities.

OSMP plans to continue meeting with neighbors as needed throughout the project to build a stronger relationship and to continue to provide clear and transparent goals for the project during the implementation phase. The department looks forward to sharing more detailed plans to implement the Gebhard Integrated Site Project in the coming months. The department anticipates beginning construction in the fall of 2023.

Background

The Gebhard property alongside South Boulder Creek is within a Colorado State Natural Area, a designation that emphasizes the state-wide ecological importance of habitat conservation and restoration in this area. This high-value habitat supports riparian nesting birds, federally listed species and rare plant communities, and serves as an important movement corridor for other species. Staff has managed access to the creek and habitat improvements through native plantings, erosion control and signage while recognizing neighboring community members have also enjoyed using the area to walk along and access South Boulder Creek. 

Over the years, growing undesignated trails – which can fragment important habitat corridors and affect wildlife and plant communities – can impact sensitive federally listed wildlife and plant species, including:

  • Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.

  • Ute ladies’-tresses orchid

In addition, a globally rare mesic tallgrass community is impacted by patterns of use, as are wetlands and a population of the Northern leopard frog, a Colorado Tier 1 Species of Greatest Conservation Need. 

In 2019, Open Space and Mountain Parks sought public feedback on ways to provide access to the South Boulder Creek corridor and protect rare and federally threatened wildlife and plant species. Community input received this fall helped staff develop a preferred alternative for the Gebhardt Integrated Site Project. The goal of the project was to partner with the community to protect rare and federally threatened wildlife and plant species and their habitat while providing access to trails along the South Boulder Creek corridor. The plan also sought to follow guidance in the 2010 Grassland Ecosystem Management Plan and the 1998 South Boulder Creek Area Management Plan.

In January 2020, the Open Space Board of Trustees reviewed and accepted a staff site plan to help manage the area.