PUEBLO, Colo. — After nearly a decade of construction, the Arkansas River Trail and the levee that follows it are open once again to the public.
The levee, which runs along the Arkansas River, mitigates flooding risk in the city. That's a key concern for residents after the Great Pueblo Flood of 1921 inundated the town. In 2014, the Federal Emergency Management Agency informed the Pueblo Conservation District that the flood wall needed repairs.
"We started reconstruction of the whole flood wall, which people call the levee, we cut it down, and we cut it back," the vice president of the Pueblo Conservancy District, Jim Prioreschi, said.
9 years and an estimated $30 million later, the project has been completed. Now, property owners near the Arkansas River Trail won't have to pay for extra flood insurance.
"It's a win-win for everybody. It really is," Prioreschi said.
The goal of the project is to expand the trail and connect it across the city, to help people see parts of Pueblo they normally wouldn't, all while improving accessibility, according to Prioreschi.
"You can go from the college to the reservoir, you can go up north to University Park, you can go south, there's even some discussion about extending it out into the county now too," Prioreschi said.
15-year-old Hayden Halstead enjoys fishing all across Pueblo. He's excited about the trail opening, looking for more places to catch fish.
"It sounds really nice! It honestly sounds really good to have more places to fish," Hayden said.
Pueblo was known for having the world record for the longest art mural along the 3 miles of levee before construction started. Now that it's finished, the Pueblo Conservancy District hopes to once again reclaim that title by connecting the murals along the concrete.