November 19, 2013

Shooks Run, the creek in history and neighborhood

Before the city of Colorado Springs was established in 1871, the small creek that empties into Fountain Creek was given the name Shooks Run after the brothers Peter and Denton Shooks started their ranch in 1865 that included the streams’ juncture and spread north up the creek to present-day Fountain Boulevard.

Shooks Run (the creek) starts (at the north) with natural runoff from the bluffs in Palmer Park (also known as Austin Bluffs) and runs southwest through the oldest (since 1919) city-owned golf course, the Patty Jewett Golf Course. After several floods, some of the drainage from the bluffs was diverted into the concrete-lined drainage project that runs directly west a couple of miles into Monument Creek near Penrose Hospital at the north end of Monument Creek Park.

Starting as not much more than a trickle, the creek makes its way from the golf course 3 miles south to Fountain Creek through one of the oldest parts of Colorado Springs just east of downtown, shaded by trees and crossed by numerous streets of the Middle Shooks Run neighborhood.

Immediately south of the golf course, Shooks Run passes by Taylor Elementary school, then under San Miguel Street, then under Uintah Street. It passes School District 11 administration complex just south of Uintah. In 1885 after heavy downpours in the Austin Bluffs area, floodwaters poured down Shooks Run and took out the chicken coop, barn, and home of the Superintendent of El Paso County Schools, B.A.P. Eaton, and his wife who lived at Wahsatch and Yampa on the northeast edge of the city. Mr. Eaton escaped the water but Mrs Eaton did not. Her body was found in Fountain Creek. The flood destroyed livestock and produce of every farmer and rancher along Shooks Run.

At the south end of School District 11’s buildings, Shooks Run Trail meets up with the creek at Cache LaPoudre Street. The trail was laid in the old Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad right-of-way which generally follows the creek from here south to Pikes Peak Avenue where the Santa Fe passenger station was located (present-day office building). The railroad came to Colorado Springs in 1887 and the last train ran in 1970.

After the creek passes under Cache LaPoudre Street on its way south, it runs through North Shooks Run Park with its picnic facilities and playground. When Willamette Street was built passing over the creek, homes along the street began to be built in the economic boom times of the 1890s when Cripple Creek wealth was felt in Colorado Springs. The wide, grassy medians in Willamette Street were considered parkway.

South of Willamette Street the creek runs through Middle Shooks Run Park with tennis courts and children’s playground. Around 1974, $40K in urban renewal (state and federal) funds were used to demolish, build and rehabilitate homes along Shooks Run and create the parkland that surrounds the creek. This is when the Shooks Run Trail was added.

The trail separates a bit from the creek as Shooks Run passes through a long stretch of culverts under Boulder Street, Palmer High School facilities, and Platte Avenue. It opens out again on the south side of Platte Avenue into Frank Waters Park, John “Prairie Dog” O’Byrne Park and back into Shooks Run Park. Author Frank Waters (“Midas of the Rockies”) and O’Byrne lived in this area, (O’Byrne in the late 1880s and 1890s; Waters grew up here in the early 1900s and attended Columbia Elementary School).

A small side creek that empties into Shooks Run at Kiowa Street is called Little Shooks Run. Completely covered over now, Little Shooks Run ran from the area around Memorial Hospital Central and Boulder Park (at Boulder and Hancock) southwest to empty into Shooks Run. Boulder Park was once a reservoir and the surface creek flooded the immediate neighborhood several times. Drainage work to protect homes and infrastructure was done in the 1930s and 40s.

Shooks Run between Kiowa and Pikes Peak Avenue was the recipient in 2003 of $6 million in Springs Community Improvement Program funds. The creek was uncovered, creek banks were terraced, and a foot bridge across the creek was added. Invasive elm trees have become a problem here and the Shooks Run Agroforestry project has planted native cottonwoods on the terraces as it has in other areas along the creek along with other native or well-adapted plant species.

South of Pikes Peak Avenue, the creek passes through the Hillside Neighborhood with its agricultural past including Sinton Dairy and the Shooks brothers’ ranch where it empties into Fountain Creek south of downtown Colorado Springs.

Through the years since the Shooks brothers, the creek has seen many changes: residential development and resulting water pollution and debris; a railroad built and removed; floods and attempts to control flooding; invasive trees and attempts to restore the natural ecosystem and wildlife (raccoons, foxes, bears, even deer and coyotes); and the construction of parks and trails. What we have now is an important neighborhood asset, one that is enjoyed and treasured every day.