When Richard Mulledy was growing up in Colorado Springs, there was no trail running along the city’s Fountain Creek. Who would have wanted to walk along the pollution-laden waterway? It was little more than an overgrown ditch for the region’s erratic and sometimes massive flash floods.
Decades later, a lot has changed.
In cities like Denver and Pueblo, urban waterways have become recreation resources. But in the Springs, Fountain Creek still struggles to shake its reputation as a contaminated dumping ground.
It’s the kind of place where people think, “if you catch a fish and it’s got three eyes looking at you — that kind of a reputation, yeah,” acknowledges Mulledy, who now manages the city’s stormwater department.
Memories of a ruptured sewer line that sent a torrent of raw sewage into the creek in the late 1990s still linger. The city is mired in a years-long ongoing lawsuit concerning pollution and creek sediment brought by a group of plaintiffs that includes the Environmental Protection Agency and multiple downstream counties.