Nine-acre Bluff Lake, the centerpiece of Bluff Lake Nature Center, is home to a wide variety of wildlife—and to nature lovers of all ages. The 128-year-old lake in Stapleton needs help.
“The lake is fed only by rainwater, and in dry years it is dry and wildlife suffers,” said Erika Walker, president of the board of Bluff Lake Nature Center.
The dam that created Bluff Lake, built around 1886, is leaking. “If we don’t repair it, at some point it might breach—and then we’d lose the lake altogether,” Walker said.
In addition to dam leakage and evaporation, water is also lost through permeable soil at the bottom of the lake.
“We’re mandated to be a nature center offering a range of education programs, which we can’t do if the lake is dry. If it’s dry for extended periods, it’s not Bluff Lake Nature Center,” said Jeff Lamontagne, executive director of Bluff Lake.
The nature center plans three phases to save the lake: first, reinforce the dam; second, line the bottom of the lake with clay; and finally, bring more water to the lake by tapping into Denver’s recycled water.
The nature center, a nonprofit organization, is securing grants totaling $1.1 million from the State of Colorado, but needs to raise $375,000 in matching funds. The first $80,000 raised will release enough grant money to complete Phase 1. Additional contributions of $295,000 will allow the completion of Phases 2 and 3.
“We hope to wrap up the fundraising by next summer,” said Lamontagne.
To reinforce the dam, a slurry wall will be built against the old stone structure on the north side of the lake, as wide and tall as the old dam and going 7 to 8 feet below ground. In Phase 2, the lake will be dredged and lined in places with 12”-thick clay. Step pools of different depths will be installed.
“The step pools will attract a wider variety of wildlife, including amphibians and more varieties of ducks,” Lamontagne said.
Phase 3 will tap into the Denver recycled water line, west of the lake at Havana St.
“All these things put together will make it so that only during extra dry times will the lake dry out, but it won’t stay dry for multiple years,” said Lamontagne. “This project will secure the lake for a couple hundred more years.”
Donations can be made by sending a check to Bluff Lake Nature Center, 4755 Paris St. #190, Denver, CO 80239, or online at coloradogives.org (search Bluff Lake Nature Center and designate the donation for the lake campaign). Bluff Lake Nature Center is a State of Colorado Enterprise Zone Charity. In addition to the usual federal tax deductions for a charitable contribution, there is an additional 25 percent tax credit on Colorado state tax returns for donations of $100 or more.”
“Bluff Lake makes it possible to experience wildness right here in our neighborhood,” said Walker. “With Colorado’s population growing—and open space shrinking—places like Bluff Lake are more important than ever.”
For more information, see www.blufflake.org.