Concrete drainage ditches criss-cross Colorado Springs. They replace meandering streams and allow developers to squeeze a few extra houses into subdivisions.
To many, they are ugly scars, poor substitutes for natural streams and dry creekbeds.
But children and teens love them. They like to ride their bikes and skateboards in the ditches. They play in the box culverts. Hide in them. Drink and smoke and carouse in them. Die in them.
On June 21, 2005, two Springs teens were swept into a concrete culvert by a flash flood and they drowned. Ever since, the city has campaigned to keep kids out of ditches. Above in the logo they created for an educational Web site:
The city put up warning signs at creek crossings, ran public service announcements at movie theaters and created a computer game about ditch safety on its Web site. In addition, it has teaching aides for schools and coupons to businesses that offer safe alternatives to playing in ditches.
They use the ditches to reach a vacant lot behind rows of homes. They party in the triangular lot, smoke, drink, shoot fireworks, shoot paintball and pellet guns, paint graffiti.
Here’s a look at the Oro Blanco ditch and the vacant lot from www.FlashEarth.com.
Here’s a look at the gate where kids access the ditch. The original steel gate was destroyed by a drunk driver and the city replaced it with a wooden gate. However, vandals broke out slats to get in.
Here’s another look.
Neighbors have photographed much of the activity in the ditch. Notice the graffiti on the sides of the ditch where the kids are running.
Very young kids, below, are mixing with teens in the ditch and vacant lot, scaring some neighbors.
Ken Sampley, who manages the city’s Stormwater Enterprise, promised to get his crews to quickly fix the gate. He also intends to ask police to patrol the area and evict any kids found trespassing on the ditch and vacant lot.
Take a look at the city’s flood safety efforts at the Stormwater Enterprise Web site.