Cañon City Riverfront improvements: $800,000 EPA grant

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CANON CITY, Colo. — A prime spot along Cañon City’s Riverwalk will soon be booming with new activity. The new funding is coming to Cañon City to clean up and completely transform an area along the Arkansas Riverfront and Downtown Main Street corridor.

Cañon City is getting an $800,000 grant to revitalize old properties along the Arkansas riverfront. The city is one of 11 communities selected to receive a Multipurpose Brownfield grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It’s going to be a great move for this community to have these areas cleaned up,” Economic Development Manager for Cañon City Rick Harrmann said.

“Not everybody has this in their backyard. We just want to bring people back to town and keep Cañon City awesome. To have a safe area that people can utilize with their children is also a very important aspect,” President of Royal Gorge River Initiative Organization Chris Moffett said.

The EPA funding will turn a vacant area into a recreational spot for people to enjoy in the heart of town. The vision is transforming the Riverfront into a thriving community center with restaurants, shops and even residential units. The new Riverfront area will connect to trails that lead to the core of downtown.

The site for redevelopment includes the 20,000 square foot Reddy Ice Plant, 2-acre Skyline Steel property, and the Acorn Petroleum property along the Riverfront area. They’re also looking into the New Method Laundry site downtown. The EPA says contaminants of concern at these sites include heavy metals and chlorinated hydrocarbons.

“There is a lot of old industrial waste along the side of the river,” Moffett said. “They used to throw old concrete into the riverbank to keep it from eroding and so you’ll get old rebar in old metal and dangerous things. So that’s exactly what we’re trying to clean up and in the future use this area to just enjoy the water and fun activities.”

After the clean-up and some demolition, improvements will get flowing. The vision is to turn the old ice plant into a community and event space, complete with riverfront dining. The city is also looking for developers for ideas on the old steel property. Some ideas are a boutique hotel or residential unit mixed with shops and dining.

“We will have some direction in which way we’d like to go,” Harrmann said. “We’d be talking about mixed-use. So maybe residential upstairs or commercial retail downstairs possibly restaurants. We can’t attract enough employees to give the schools enough employees, to give hospitals enough employees. We want to build the amenities of the community that people are expecting.”

This ties in with the city’s long-term goals of bringing more jobs and housing to Cañon City, attracting more people to work, live and play here.

Cañon City is among 151 communities nationwide selected to receive 154 grant awards totaling $66.5 million in EPA Brownfields funding through the agency’s Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup Grant programs. According to the EPA, this funding supports underserved and economically disadvantaged communities across the country in assessing and cleaning up contaminated and abandoned industrial and commercial properties. Approximately 50% of selected recipients will be receiving EPA Brownfields Grant funding for the first time and more than 85% are located in or serving, small communities.

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