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Colorado Springs doesn't usually conjure images of wetlands, creekside beaches or 15-minute walks from downtown to waterside — not yet, anyway. However, the city broke ground Saturday on a project that will connect America the Beautiful Park to the nearby Monument Creek.

The Creekside Project will be completed in roughly five months, according to city Communications Specialist Krithika Prashant, and will be largely funded by the nonprofit trust Great Outdoors Colorado.

It's part of an effort to bring attention back to Monument and Fountain creeks that includes projects in Fountain and Pueblo as well.

On the southwest side of America the Beautiful, there's a berm blocking the creek now. The project will remove it, and most non-native trees, and revitalize the creekside area beyond it.

There will be a park area, built to look like a natural creekside spot, including a crossing to the west side of the creek. A playground will include logs, boulders and a small beach.

Jeff Webb of the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Administration says the new Creekside playground is designed for unstructured play. In a recent report, the American Academy of Pediatrics said such free play is vital for a child's emotional and mental development. The water will be safe to play in as well, Webb says. Colorado Springs Utilities has test sites above and below the park, and the water is cleaner than the water in heavily used Confluence Park in Denver.

Webb also says the area will bring attention to a part of the Springs that often gets forgotten: waterways and wetlands.

Waterways like Monument Creek were a vital part of Springs life in the past. They also have a practical value. Wetlands, such as the area around the creek, allow waterways to expand during heavy rain, catching sediment and slowing the water farther downstream. This project is not an anti-flood measure, Webb says, but it's a demonstration that he hopes will get people thinking.

Webb says the project ties in to other city plans for the area. The city hopes it will focus developers' attention there as well. Businesses and living spaces along the creek could bring money and jobs into the area. Additionally, nearby bike trails will tie in to the long-planned Legacy Loop, a 12-mile bike trail incorporating Shooks Run trail.

The work will do little to interrupt normal use of the park. A bike trail on the west side of the creek will be rerouted, but the park will remain completely open.

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