At a Glance

An in-depth ecological assessment and suitability analysis provide the foundation for holistic master planning that protects a rural canyon in balance with the needs of a nearby town and mountain visitors.

Project Description

The 3,000-acre South Canyon recreational area near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, includes a city landfill, shooting range, unmanaged open space, and the natural “Hippy Hot Springs.” The City of Glenwood Springs requested a master plan to provide an innovative planning framework to address the Canyon’s history, land use, and natural resources while accounting for its vulnerabilities to catastrophic fire and recreation demands. The South Canyon landscape is spectacular and visitor amenities will be needed in the near future to protect this special place. To ensure a comprehensive approach, the city collaborated with an integrated design team led by Design Workshop (DW) supported by ecological assessment expertise from Biohabitats.

Biohabitats reviewing existing information on South Canyon to lay the groundwork for the GIS suitability analysis and identify potential conservation opportunities and challenges. Desktop analysis included surface water, vegetative cover types, coal seam fire locations, soil qualities (such as erodibility), wildfire history, sensitive habitat, wildlife migration routes, topography, and land uses (i.e., the landfill and shooting range). After developing a multidimensional impression of the Canyon based on GIS data, Biohabitats visited the site to understand the experience it offers and observe features such as stream conditions, extent of different plant communities and species composition, ground-truth GIS data, and map additional features. Biohabitats combined GIS with observational data to finalize the suitability analysis, providing a map of highest-priority areas for conservation and recommendations for restoration and management. Combined with expertise on fire mitigation, DW developed three planning alternatives spanning a range of recreational, natural resources, and management approaches to the City of Glenwood. Biohabitats reviewed the options and provided feedback and recommendations on ecological restoration, conservation planning, and potential Hot Springs development.

With Biohabitats’ input, Design Workshop created a master plan package that met sustainability goals and set the stage for public and stakeholder engagement. The final plan will be used in Glenwood Springs’ strategic planning efforts to identify a path forward for funding and implementation.



Southern Rocky Mountain

Expertise Areas

Conservation, Ecological Restoration


City of Glenwood Springs


Glenwood Springs, Colorado, United States

Project Team
  • Design Workshop
  • Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting