Update On Massey Draw Stream Stabilization Project

Update On Massey Draw Stream Stabilization Project

By now you have probably noticed the construction project as you enter the Valley along the east side of the Ken-Caryl Community Center. The drainageway improvement project was featured in the Oct. 8 edition of Life at Ken-Caryl after the Ken-Caryl Ranch Master Association Board of Directors hired the contractor, AGE Inc. The improvements will address public safety concerns, downstream bank stability and water quality issues. The $405,000 cost of the project is funded entirely by Master Association dues.

Work began on Nov. 10, and the contractor has been busy establishing staging areas for the project, diverting stream flow and installing erosion and sediment control features around the site. The project design calls for moving the stream channel further north from its current location and installing three, grouted boulder drop structures to prevent erosion at the new location. The contractor will then fill in eroded channels and grade slopes.

One of the more interesting aspects of the project is the search for prehistoric animals that roamed the Valley some 30,000+ years ago! In 2009, two junior residents found a molar and part of a lower mandible of a mastodon in what is now the center of the stream stabilization project. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science was contacted about the find and sent a crew to investigate the site. Within a short period of time the crew found a tusk from a mastodon imbedded in the stream bank near where the boys found the tooth and jaw bone. Museum staff carefully removed the tusk and transported it to the Museum for preservation and study. Plans were made to excavate around the area where the tusk was found but a lack funds delayed execution of the excavation, until now.

On Monday, Dec. 8, museum staff returned to the site to oversee the excavation of a test pit to see if any other remains could be found. The excavation of the test pit was built into the scope of work for the stream stabilization project. The contractor, using a large track hoe, dug down at least 12-feet deep to the level where the tusk was found. The museum’s paleontologist watched each bucket of dirt that came out of the pit looking for clues, bone fragments, anything that would indicate a larger find. But, after two hours and hundreds of cubic yards of dirt, nothing was found.

Who knows where the source of the tooth and tusk lie? Maybe the skeleton eroded away; perhaps it rests in an ancient stream bed hundreds of yards away. Regardless, the stream stabilization project will now move forward and will take shape over the next eight months. When finished, a trail will traverse the site connecting Brannon Gearhart Park to Club Drive hugging the south side of the right of way for Ken Caryl Ave. and crossing the new drop structures before climbing up to the concrete path along the west side of the project. A sidewalk will be added along the north side of Club Drive that will connect with the existing sidewalk along South Valley Road.

It’s a little disappointing that more animal parts weren’t found even if the contractor is relieved that his work won’t be held up by a major paleontological discovery. For me, whenever I visit the site I always remember the tooth and tusk and imagine what it must have been like to live on Ken-Caryl Ranch tens of thousands of years ago. How wonderful it is that this discovery sparks the imagination and provides deeper meaning and context to our time on the Ranch! So, I am thankful that two teenage boys, exploring the storm-scoured stream channel back in 2009, made this serendipitous discovery and shared it with the rest of us.

By Open Space Manager Sean Warren


  1. Jan Feldmann

    I was wondering why nature couldn’t take its course and let the stream find its own natural route. Would the erosion problems eventually cause problems on sidewalks and the road? It just seems like a ton of money to spend on the diversion process. But if necessary,I will understand.

    1. Victoria DeSair

      Due to development in the Valley the stream flow in our open space drainages has become very un-natural. Increased flows from impervious surfaces (roads, roofs, etc.) has accelerated erosion in these drainageways which causes unstable soils and stream banks. This leads to poorer water quality, public safety concerns and potentially threatens public infrastructure. These types of stream stabilization projects are common throughout the Denver Metro area and are relatively expensive. Unfortunately the developer of the Valley opted out of a public program back in the early days of the development that would have helped KCR pay for these projects so now the community pays for these projects without public assistance.

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