Environmental Education

In 2010, the Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership began our first youth outreach program, called the Next Generation Partners of the Sand Creek Regional Greenway (NextGen).

NextGen’s goal is to provide local youth in the Metro Denver area access to nature in their neighborhoods along the Sand Creek Regional Greenway. We provide hands-on, interactive environmental education workshops and service learning/volunteer opportunities. And we have fun!

NextGen is focused on getting out to nature. Our program gives students the opportunity to learn about nature, engage in activities outdoors, and give back by helping with projects along the Greenway.

Since NextGen began in the spring of 2011, we have worked with more than 4,000 students in the metro area. Past NextGen groups include the Commerce City Boys and Girls Club, Colfax Community Network, William Smith High School, Manual High School, the African Community Center, Commerce City Parks & Rec summer programs and Bruce Randolph School High School.

For many of the students who participate in our program, their visits to the Greenway are the only field trips that they will have all year, and one of the few opportunities they have to spend time in nature.

Our organization works with many community partners, agencies, and other environmental organizations to make NextGen possible. Some of these organizations include Aurora’s Morrison Nature Center, Trips for Kids, Bluff Lake Nature Center, Nature’s Educators, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Earthforce. We would like to thank the Xcel Energy Foundation, the Captain Planet Foundation, New Belgium Brewing Company, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the cities of Denver, Aurora and Commerce City for funding NextGen.

If your school, community organization, or non-profit are interested in partnering with the NextGen program please contact our Education Program Manager at esmith@sandcreekgreenway.org.

Cristal’s Creative Expression 

Disconnected - watercolor by Cristal

Cristal participated in our NextGen Program with the Keystone Club at her Boys & Girls Club. She shared her experience in the creative expression portion of her application for the 2016 Natural Leaders Colorado Legacy Camp.


Cristal painted a water color and wrote a short essay about the disconnect between the creek and the Greenway and community members who do not know about its natural and recreational resources. She urged people to be more aware and appreciative of our environment.

Natural Leaders Legacy Camp is a collaboration between the Natural Leaders Network, an initiative of the Children and Nature Network, and Great Outdoors Colorado’s Inspire Initiative, a five-year strategy aimed at inspiring Coloradans, particularly kids, to appreciate, enjoy and take care of our great outdoors.

Cristal’s essay follows.


             The creative expression I chose to create is a watercolor painting of a scene in Sand Creek. I wanted to portray Sand Creek because it I personally think it is an underrated trail that not is not known too well by many members of the Commerce City community. I personally did not know much of it until a few years ago when I was a member of Keystone, a teen leadership program ran by Boys & Girls Club. Through this program, we went to Sand Creek to learn about the ecosystem, what its pollutants are, and how to help conserve its water and natural inhabitants. I have passed this creek several times, but I did not know it was a part of a trail nor its significance. Upon learning about its history and importance, I began to wonder, who else knows of this? Do my friends and family know about Sand Creek and it uses? If so why do they use it? I wonder what we humans use nature for. What are our intentions? Thus, the people in the painting are silhouettes, and are not detailed because I wanted the viewer to question the characters role in the environment. I truly meant for the viewer to come up with their own feeling and wonder why the painting is as it is. I do think that people have great intentions for using Sand Creek because they use it for multiple purposes such as running, biking, or a way to spend time with family. At the same time, I also think that sometimes we are not aware of the significance of our environment, which we tend to mistreat it by polluting. All in all, the message I am trying to get across is that we should be more aware of our environment and appreciate its value because it is all we have.

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Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership

About the Greenway

The Sand Creek Regional Greenway is a jewel in the necklace of trails that has made Denver a national model for linked trail systems.

This 14-mile public greenway connects the High Line Canal in Aurora, Colorado with the South Platte River Greenway in Commerce City. Along the way, it passes through northeast Denver and the new Stapleton community.

The Sand Creek Regional Greenway is open every day from dawn until dusk. Runners, walkers, nature viewers, horseback riders, and leashed dogs are encouraged to enjoy the trail. We invite you to become acquainted with our wilderness in the city.


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