The Longmont Nature Guide

Boulder Weekly, moves, travel
The Spirit of Longmont” Rafe Ropek, 2009
Photo courtesy of the City of Longmont

In the city of Longmont, residents have plenty of places to get outside and enjoy nature, including 41 parks containing a total of 2,242 acres.

“Longmont puts a lot of pride into the park system,” says Kathy Kron, Longmont Parks and Natural Resources senior project manager. “When it comes to having a variety of parks, we have neighborhood, nature and greenway parks.

“It’s a neat aspect because you can get lost in nature without having to leave town.”

And as long as you’re lost in nature, here are a few of the things you can do before you find your way back home:

Bird watching: It’s common to see osprey, bald eagles and a wide variety of hawks and other raptors. Many species of smaller birds such as chickadees, finches, blue jays, doves and woodpeckers are also common. Near evening or early morning be on the lookout for wild turkeys. And while harder to find, rare species such as the burrowing owl, which can be found near prairie dog colonies, do appear from time to time. When water is present, expect to see cormorants, American white pelicans, great blue herons, a wide variety of ducks and Canada geese.

Wildlife encounters: While most animals in Longmont are of the small and furry variety — rabbits, prairie dogs, weasels and the like — larger animals such as beaver, coyotes and deer are sometimes encountered. And if you venture west to Longmont’s Button Rock Preserve (west of Lyons), you’ll get the chance to see mountain lion and bear. 

Art viewing: Some of Longmont’s parks have wonderful nature-inspired art. So why not take in a little culture on your next hike with art including these pieces:

“The Spirit of Longmont” This installation — created by Rafe Ropek in 2009 — can be spotted on southwest Diagonal Highway. The 48 leaves alternate from yellow to green to represent Longmont’s agricultural roots, while the sphere in the middle calls to the future. 

“Dawson Silverwood” Steve Jensen, 2003
Photo courtesy of the City of Longmont

“Dawson Silverwood” Located at Lake McIntosh, Steve Jensen’s aluminum sculpture, created in 2003, contains inscriptions by students about their hopes for the future.

“A Lady and a damsel” Built in 2019 by Amanda Willshire, this towering structure is made from recycled bike parts, an old Volkswagen hood, and golf clubs; 210 Ken Pratt Blvd., on the St. Vrain River Trail.

There’s plenty more where those came from, including all along the St. Vrain Greenway. But we know half the fun is when you discover such art on your own, so we’ll keep the list short.

So, now that you know what to do, let’s take a look at some of the great places to do them right in your back yard.

Since the 2013 flood wreaked havoc on much of the city, the Resilient St. Vrain Project (RSVP) has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore and prepare the riparian corridor should a calamity strike again. From the RSVP, the Dickens Farm Nature Area came to fruition.

Senior Project Manager Steve Ransweiler says the nature area was underway before the flood seven years ago. The name pays homage to Longmont’s first homestead and will feature a watercourse, a nature discovery area, three shelters and a bike skills course. Dickens Farm Nature Area will be the perfect addition to Longmont’s abundant park scene come May.

But there’s no reason to wait if you have the urge to get outdoors right now. Here are a few places to get lost in Longmont’s natural beauty:

McIntosh Lake Nature Area (1929 Harvard St.) This 3.5-mile loop around McIntosh Lake offers gorgeous views of Longs Peak while you’re surrounded by critters as far as the eye can see. Venture to the north side, where you’ll run into a sassy prairie dog colony on the way to the Boulder County Agricultural Heritage Center, a renovated 1909 farmhouse with plenty of interactive exhibits (think farm animals, a milk house and guided tours). 

Fishing in bellyboats at Golden Ponds Nature Area
Photo courtesy of the City of Longmont

Golden Ponds Nature Area (2651 Third Ave.) The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife stocks the water feature at Golden Ponds with fish such as rainbow trout, largemouth bass and bluegill, according to Dan Wolford, Public Works and Natural Resources land program administrator. Wildlife sightings: Mallard ducks, red-tailed hawks and the occasional mountain lion or black bear are often seen at Golden Ponds Nature Area.

Roosevelt Community Park (700 Longs Peak Ave.) The Veterans’ Memorial rose garden on the west side of the park was planted after World War II and is one of two display gardens in Colorado recognized by the All-America Rose Selections, according to former Parks senior project manager Paula Fitzgerald (the other was the Denver Botanic Gardens). 

History lesson: Roosevelt Park was one of the first three parks built by the Chicago-Colorado Colony upon Longmont’s inception. Fitzgerald says Roosevelt Park used to have a horse racetrack and barns. It was also the former site of the Boulder County Fair. 

Sandstone Ranch Community Park and Nature Area (3001 Colorado Highway 119) The 313 acres of Sandstone Ranch are jam-packed with activities such as an adventure playground, sports complex, skatepark, hiking trails, and historic home. “Sandstone is a fantastic place to view and photograph wildlife,” Wolford says. “We have a variety of wildlife including bald eagles, pelicans, hawks, kestrels, wild turkey, numerous waterfowl, coyotes and white-tailed deer.” 

St. Vrain Greenway Although the St. Vrain is undergoing a multi-year, multi-million dollar reconstruction effort, an eight-mile trail remains open between Sandstone Ranch and Golden Ponds Nature Area. Thanks to the Art in Public Places Commission, bikers and hikers can appreciate 16 sculptures along the way. New additions include “Rejuvenation” by Boulder’s Josh Wiener at Dickens Farm Nature Area, and the “Golden Ponds Guardian” by Steve Carmer of Fort Collins. Find the comprehensive art bike trail map at longmontcolorado.gov; Multiple trailheads.

Button Rock Preserve (CO Highway 80) This preserve isn’t in Longmont but is owned and managed by the City because it’s the source of the city’s drinking water. It’s a 30-minute drive west and a fantastic fishing spot for cold-water trout. Wolford says if you’re lucky, you might see bears, mountain lions or mule deer. At higher elevations, you can run into grouse and Aberts’ squirrels. 

A fresh water source: The trail through Button Rock Preserve leads to Ralph Price Reservoir, the primary drinking source for 100,000 residents in Longmont, Lyons and parts of unincorporated Boulder County. The reservoir collects and releases 1.3 to 1.6 billion gallons a year, says water resources manager Ken Huson.

Dickens Farm Nature Area (Boston Avenue) “This is the first nature area to encourage people to interact with the water,” Ransweiler says. “When we treated St. Vrain as a habitat corridor, we used the opportunity for people to get into the water.” The grand opening is scheduled in late May when run-off water is usable and at its most fun, he says. The half-mile watercourse will be an excellent way for tubers to cool down during the summer months.

And that’s just a short list of options. Bottom line, you have every opportunity in this boomtown to get outside and enjoy nature, so get to it.

“A Lady and A Damsel” Amanda Willshire, 2019
Photo courtesy of the City of Longmont

https://www.boulderweekly.com/special-editions/the-longmont-nature-guide/

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