Editor’s Note: This is the first story of a three-part series highlighting the history of Standley Lake Regional Park in Westminster. The second story will focus on recreation, followed by education in the third story.
Known for its beautiful scenery and unlimited outdoor activities, the state of Colorado is a place where people from all over the world choose to spend their free time. And for Westminster residents, there’s a place right in their backyards that provides ample opportunities to enjoy the views and fun of Colorado.
Standley Lake Regional Park is set on the edge of Westminster and occupies 5 square miles. The park is bordered by 100th Avenue on the north, 86th Parkway on the south, Independence and Kipling streets on the east and Alkire Street on the west.
The park features 2,300-acre Standley Lake, the city’s largest body of water and source of water, as well as a variety of land-based activities such as hiking, bicycling, camping and wildlife viewing. The reservoir, which is the third largest in the Denver metro area, offers fishing, sailing, kayaking and power-boating activities, including water skiing and tubing.
Although the park is now a popular place for fisherman and water-sports enthusiasts, it’s taken years to develop Standley Lake Regional Park into the gem it is today.
Owned and operated by the city of Westminster, the area of the park was first homesteaded by John Kinnear around 1870. According to the city’s website, in 1902 Thomas Croke, Ottawa Joseph Standley and Milton Smith teamed up to create the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company in an effort to develop a system of canals and reservoirs that would provide water to the farm country north and northwest of Westminster. Construction of the reservoir and the dam begin in 1908.
On Sept. 7, 1911, a dedication ceremony took place for the new Standley Lake dam, which is a mile long, and Colorado dignitaries from around the state came to celebrate the completion of the project. The lake was filled with water from Clear Creek, Coal Creek, Ralston Creek and Leyden Creek. The dam was completed in 1909, and many years later, in 1963, the city enlarged the dam by adding 12,000 acre-feet of water for a total storage capacity of 42,000 acre-feet.
By 1998 Standley Lake was designated as a regional park and improvements on the park continued. Mark Reddinger, lake operations coordinator, also came on board that year. He said that when he arrived, the only “building” that stood in the park was a small trailer that served as an office during the summer months. He had a lot of work ahead of him.
“What’s been great for me is to be part of actually starting a park because there were no buildings, no designated campground and really no programming for the community,” he said. “So I was able to help design the campground and all of our facility buildings.”
Reddinger said that over the years, the Standley Lake dam acquired damage and cracks and was at one point, considered one of the top 10 most dangerous dams in the nation. He said some improvements were made in the 1960s, but the biggest upgrade came in 2003 when construction began to strengthen the dam and improve the spill way.
“There was a new outlet structure built and new piping done at this time for water leaving to Big Dry Creek and to the cities of Thornton, Westminster and Northglenn,” he said.
Under Reddinger’s watchful eye, the campground was built and hundreds of trees were planted in the park. Reddinger said he’s watched the camp come to life and become a place for people to escape the city lights and traffic, and enjoy the quiet of the outdoors. He said he’s also enjoyed seeing the growth in programming opportunities for people in the community.
“We’ve really worked hard to improve our programs and make the park a place where people can come, not just for recreation, but for learning opportunities,’ he said.
“We’ve also improved collaboration with our city departments and really making the park a unified department.”
For a more information on the history of Standley Lake Regional Park, go online to www.ci.westminster.co.us.