A View from the Monument Creek Restoration Project

By David Sachs ’20

The Monument Creek Restoration Project is a collaboration between the State of the Rockies Project and Innovation at Colorado College, with support from the Geology Department and the GIS Lab. Inspired by Colorado Springs’ founding principles and Colorado College’s strategic plan, the aim of the project is to create a model framework for the kilometer-long stretch of Monument Creek that forms the western border of campus.

In this phase of the project the team is using a method for research, planning, and design known as geodesign. Geodesign is a multifaceted approach that aims to account for the myriad of factors at play when revitalizing a given area. While traditional planning methods typically focus on research and data aggregation for a specific feature, geodesign relies on a more holistic set of information. This can range from environmental and socio-economic data, to feedback and input from community stakeholders.

This summer, I and a team of two other interns are conducting a pilot study in the stretch of Monument Creek running from the Uintah overpass to the Mesa Bridge a kilometer south. We have been tasked with collecting stream-bed topography at various points along the reach. In addition, we are building a catalog of various elements in the riparian landscape, gathering data on everything from vegetation to extended human presence. The project has provided us the opportunity to meet with various city planners, Colorado Springs Utilities, and other local creek patrons in order to build a deeper understanding of their concerns and more broadly, how Monument Creek is utilized in its present state. Going forward, the team will visualize our data in industry standard GIS software, which provides powerful analytic tools, enabling us to identify key areas for redesign.

Following the data collection and analysis phase, the other interns and I will shift the focus of our work to a GIS modeling software which allows designers to model buildings and vegetation in conjunction with preexisting conditions. The team will attempt to create a plan which can improve storm water quality, aide in flood mitigation, and restore degraded ecological systems. The plan will also seek to create a stronger connection between the creek and the Colorado College campus, enabling further education on hydrology and riparian landscapes in our own backyard. For me, this is one of the most compelling components of the project. By using detailed geospatial data as the framework for design creation, we have the opportunity to achieve a powerful synthesis of science and creativity which truly represents the potency of a liberal arts education. Knowing that down the line our work may help enable a positive change in our community is icing on the cake. Our project parallels ongoing work being done by the Fountain Creek Watershed District, Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation, and The Rocky Mountain Field Institute.

The models and data generated this summer will be used and refined by CC’s Introduction to Geodesign course, which is being offered in Block 8, 2019. Students in this class will have the opportunity to learn the geodesign method and continue conversations with community stakeholders in order to develop models which may be presented to decision makers both on campus, and within city government.

While the work being done here is local, the scope of the project is far greater. The Monument Creek Restoration Plan will be Colorado College’s flagship contribution to Changing our Global Infrastructure, a geodesign collaboration among academic institutions worldwide. Colorado College’s focus on digital liberal arts, and early adoption of the geodesign methodology has enabled CC to be the only four-year liberal arts college to participate. This international Geodesign consortium aims to create a diverse body of work, showcasing the capabilities of the new methodology. Areas of study range from urban centers to wilderness, and initial work will be presented at the International Geodesign Conference in February 2019. Our Geodesign at Colorado College project will also be presenting a poster in September at GIS in the Rockies, the premier geospatial conference of the Rocky Mountain west. Through these conferences we hope to hone our presentation skill as well as gain insight into other implementations of the informational technologies through which we work.

For more information please visit our website.

Student interns are:

  • David Sachs, senior, Interdisciplinary Major
  • Will Rundquist, senior, Geology Major
  • Darryl Filmore, junior, Computer Science Major

Collaborators/mentors are:

  • Christine Siddoway, Geology Professor
  • Matt Cooney, GIS Technical Director
  • Cyndy Hines, Program Coordinator, Innovation and SOTR, with expertise in stream ecology and hydrology



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