The Mary Carter Greenway, an eight-mile multi-use trail and whitewater facility along the South Platte River in Arapahoe County, is the Foundation’s legacy trail project. Forming an integral part of the central spine of the Denver Metro Area greenway system, this $4 million project follows the South Platte River from Denver to Chatfield State Park and is enjoyed by nearly a million visitors each year. The trail is named after Mary Hampton Carter whose vision and energy led the Foundation for several critical years.
During the early 1990’s, Mary’s small group became thousands. Indeed it is the product of a small group of people, later joined by many, that was led and inspired by Mary Carter who freely gave her time and leadership which has led to what we are today. Our legacy project, the Mary Carter Greenway, has made history.
The Platte River valley, located in a highly industrialized metro area, has been a disposal site serving generally as the route for both the railroad lines as well as Interstate 25 .
Formed in the South Park grassland basin approximately 15 miles southwest of Fairplay, the river passes through the Platte and Waterton Canyon approximately 50 miles in length, receiving the North Fork before emerging from the foothills southwest of the City of Littleton There, it flows into Chatfield reservoir, a major source of drinking water for the Denver Metropolitan Area.
The South Platte River is the major watershed found in the Denver Metro region. The watershed is a combination of pristine mountain areas, highly urbanized areas, and intense agricultural used lands. The river itself is a tightly controlled stream with water rights usually dictating the flow through the Denver area. The river channel as it currently exists has been modified by the addition of dams such as Chatfield, hydraulic and diversion structures and is channelized in many areas. Thus, the result of these activities is a river that bears little or no resemblance to the natural, pre-1880’s South Platte River.
Yet, that’s where the Foundation has played an active role. Throughout the past quarter century, the Foundation has been the primary leader in enhancing and developing the Platte River Greenway, now known as the Mary Carter Greenway, located within the south metro communities. Our vision was not only to provide a recreational resource by implementing an interconnected trail system throughout this north south spine, but we have continued our commitment to enhance the natural features and wildlife that coexist in such a unique urban environment. As a result of our efforts, we have raised awareness of the qualities that natural waterways and corridors provide, and importantly, we provide the resource to clean-up disturbed environments and return them near to their originally pristine elements.
In addition to a state-of-art multi-use trail, the project includes rest areas, interpretive sites, and major revegetation of an abused river corridor. Specifically, Hudson Gardens, a natural botanical park; South Platte Park, a 600-acre wildlife/nature preserve; and, the Carson Nature Center, filled with native plants and animal interactive displays, are directly accessible for trail visitors to enjoy.
Today, multiple trail heads and a wide array of local and regional trails can be accessed from the Mary Carter Greenway. And, we are honored that the project has won numerous national awards including the American Planning Association’s top award in 1986.