The phrase "string of pearls" has been adopted to convey a powerful visual image that readily communicates Thornton's vision for the parks, recreation, trails and open space system. Rather than the patchwork quilt of green spaces that characterizes many communities' systems, the city of Thornton parks, recreation facilities, open spaces and other civic and community places such as schools, are to be linked by a system of off-street trails and pedestrian and bicycle friendly streets.
The "pearls" within the system include opportunities for both active and passive forms of recreation and protect and utilize the city's environmental and historical assets as part of the overall system. Open space "pearls" include existing wildlife habitat, vegetation, the South Platte River, Niver Creek and Big Dry Creek and their tributaries, and existing irrigation ditches and reservoirs that were built when the Thornton area was a farming community. Below are just a few of Thornton's open space "pearls".
Badding Open Space
In December, 2010, the city was able to add almost 11 acres of open space at the corner of Thornton Parkway and the I-25 southbound exit ramp, with help from an Adams County Open Space grant award of $914,338. The property visually expands Thornton's existing 17 acre Badding Open Space to the north, provides an additional visual buffer along Thornton Parkway and I-25 and protects environmental resources and wildlife habitat.
Badding Open Space Aerial
Big Dry Creek Open Space
Just as the South Platte River is the natural resource defining Thornton's eastern boundary and as Niver Creek defines Thornton's southwest open space area, so Big Dry Creek is the natural feature that shapes Thornton's central northwest topography. Within Thornton, Big Dry Creek travels approximately 6 miles, from the city's western boundary at I-25 and approximately 132nd Avenue to northeast of 168th Avenue, east of Colorado Boulevard. Big Dry Creek is approximately 110 miles long, its watershed beginning on the Front Range at the mouth of Coal Creek Canyon and flowing to Standley Lake in Jefferson County. From Standley Lake, Big Dry Creek flows in a northeasterly direction through the cities of Westminster and Thornton then unincorporated Adams and Weld Counties to where it joins the South Platte River near Fort Lupton.
Within the city's overall planning effort, the Big Dry Creek corridor provides outstanding opportunities for preservation and enhancement as a passive recreation, wildlife habitat and open space area. As identified in Thornton's Parks and Open Space Master Plan, Big Dry Creek and its floodplain are an important natural resource for east-west wildlife movement and regional trail connectivity through this ecologically diverse drainage corridor.
In 1997 and again in 2013, Thornton voters passed a ballot initiative allowing for a .25% sales and use tax increase for parks and open space acquisition and development. Using these funds, and along with Adams County, over 300 acres of open land along the corridor in Thornton have been preserved, mostly as natural stream bordered by undeveloped floodplain. The city owns one park facility, Thorncreek Golf Course of which approximately 44 acres are in the corridor, plus six open space parcels along Big Dry Creek totaling over 250 acres and Adams County owns two open space parcels totaling over 49 acres. The development intent for the corridor is to remain natural and be used primarily as open space and wildlife habitat with passive recreation.
The city was recently awarded a $75,000 Great Outdoors Colorado planning grant (April 2016) to help fund the Big Dry Creek Recreation and Floodplain Restoration Master Plan and Corridor Design. Design work is expected to begin summer 2016 and will include gathering community input from residents. Adams County is the city's partner in this project. Funds have been budgeted to construct selected floodplain restoration work (amount of work depends on costs) and the city plans to submit additional grants to various agencies to help expand the budget. Construction of recreational amenities is not currently budgeted.
Click on the link below to see a map of recent Big Dry Creek open space additions.
Big Dry Creek Open Space