Windy Peak Pond Renovation

WDTU completed the Windy Peak Pond renovation project in 2003.

The Windy Peak Outdoor Laboratory is one of two outdoor education laboratories owned by the Jefferson County Public Schools. Windy Peak is 8 miles south of the town of Bailey, about a 90 minute drive from Denver. Each year, Windy Peak hosts about 3500 sixth grade and 400 high school students in the Jefferson County School District. For many students, the intensive week of environmental education at Windy Peak is their first exposure to the outdoors.

Project background: Windy Peak has two ponds on their campus, which are used as outdoor laboratories for the study of entomology, fish biology, limnology, microbiology, hydrology, water quality, botany, and wetland ecology. The ponds are also used to teach the fundamentals of sport fishing for trout with spinning and fly tackle. The lower pond is 100 years old and had become partially silted in and weed choked, limiting the number of trout the pond it could support and threatening their winter survival. The drain pipes controlling the upper and lower water levels in the pond were at least 40 years old, had become almost inoperable, and needed to be replaced. The pond’s resident beaver continually filled the upper water level control pipe with woody debris requiring almost daily maintenance during the Spring and Summer months. An erosion channel below the existing spillway was eating its way up the back side of the dam, threatening the dam’s very existence.

In addition, WDTU had previously built a handicap accessible fishing platform on the pond in 1990 to prevent shoreline degradation and erosion from all the students using the pond. While the fishing platform was still structurally sound, it was in need of maintenance. The posts supporting the platform had settled resulting in a tilted platform.

Project objective and benefits: The purpose of this project was to ensure the continued use of the Windy Peak Pond as a valuable educational resource to teach sport fishing and related outdoor studies to the youth of Jefferson County. This project enhances the lower pond’s value as an outdoor teaching laboratory by—

  • ensuring the pond’s continued existence,
  • improving winter survivability of trout,
  • doubling the pond’s current carrying capacity for trout,
  • providing a means to maintain more stable water levels for the pond and wetlands,
  • reducing maintenance requirements,
  • providing a means to effectively drain the pond if needed, and
  • providing student anglers a level and more stable fishing platform.

Funding: Major contributors to this project included—

  • $87,429.00 – Fishing is Fun grant from the Colorado Division of Wildlife
  • $31,204.00 – Jefferson County Open Space
  • $11,500.00 – WDTU
  • $3,000.00 – Embrace-A-Stream grant from National Trout Unlimited
  • $7,000.00 – materials for the fishing platforms donated by Zimkor Industries, Inc. of Littleton, CO

The balance of the project costs were covered by Jefferson County Public Schools.

Accomplishments: The lower pond was dredged to a depth of at least 15 feet over a minimum of 1/3 of the pond area. This has resulted in a deeper pond with a longer life expectancy, colder water, and less aquatic weed growth. Dredging occurred in an area of the pond where wetlands were present. An aerator was installed to help keep the pond open in the winter months and to increase the level of dissolved oxygen in the water. Together, these measures will double the number of trout the pond can support.

The pond’s drain pipes were replaced to allow the pond to be drained, if needed. In addition, an access pipe was added so that the fire department can readily draw water in case of emergency. The upper water level control pipe was also replaced with an improved spillway structure to provide the ability to better control pond water levels. The spillway now has a pool area below the dam which currently has a few resident cutthroat trout living in it. The erosion on the back side of the dam was repaired to assure the structural integrity of the dam guaranteeing the existence of the pond.

The Boy Scouts of America, their parents, and WDTU constructed and submerged several “fish condos” in 4 to 5 feet of water to provide shade and cover for the fish. Members of WDTU have constructed three fishing platforms to ensure a level, safe, and stable platform for students and to prevent further erosion of the pond’s shoreline and degradation of the pond’s wetlands. In May 2011, Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocked the pond with 200 rainbow trout.