In 1898, the Boulder City Council passed an ordinance giving park names to several tracts of land. Oddly, the name Valverdan (possibly a combination of the words "valley" and "verdant," to give the illusion of a "green valley") was given to the city's sewage disposal and dump site.
Now Scott Carpenter Park, this same tract of land at Arapahoe Avenue and 30th Street has a hidden past. For decades, it handled Boulder's trash and waste.
Water from the mountains was first piped into some of Boulder's homes and businesses as early as 1872, but there was no infrastructure in place for its removal. While outhouses gradually were replaced by indoor plumbing, waste piled up in individual cesspools. Gray water often was poured into open ditches.
Finally, in 1895, when the city's population reached 3,500, Boulder installed its first municipal sewer lines. Wastewater was piped to the "park," where it drained into a settling basin before being discharged into Boulder Creek.
Famed city planner Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., visited Boulder in 1908 and made recommendations for the city's future. On the topic of sewage, he wrote, "The problem of a permanently suitable method of sewage disposal is one which the City of Boulder will sooner or later have to face."
The suitable method became a reality in 1934, when the federal government provided Boulder with a Public Works Project grant to build a then-state-of-the-art sewage disposal facility on the same tract of land.
After constructing a machinery/office building, a crew of 40 local laborers built a preliminary clarifier and a digester tank. (The brick building, at 1505 30th St., still is standing, west of the present-day parking lot and between the swimming pool and the ballfield.)
At the time, Arapahoe Road was the main artery into town. Residents and tourists didn't like looking at the city's garbage and trash, so the dump was relocated to North 26th Street, north of Boulder. The former dump site (between the park's current parking lot and Boulder Creek) was landscaped into a hill, now a popular place for sledding.
The sewage disposal plant, however, stayed to serve the needs of Boulder's residents until 1957, when the site actually was transformed into a park, and the city built a new sewage disposal facility on East Pearl Street. The construction of the Rocky Flats plant of the Atomic Energy Commission, as well as an influx of federal government agencies, had caused Boulder's population to boom.
In 1962, Scott Carpenter, Boulder's hometown hero, made history by becoming the second astronaut to orbit the Earth. The city honored Carpenter by renaming Valverdan Park after him and even including a rocket ship as part of the park's playground equipment.
Boulder's current sewage disposal plant, built in 1968, is located at 75th Street and Jay Road. Today, few visitors to Scott Carpenter Park are aware of the city's previous use of the land. But, if you look at the original building, as well as the terrain, it all makes sense.
A large circular planter next to the pool even has the same footprint as the digester tank — just take a close look at the photo from 1934.
Silvia Pettem and Carol Taylor write about history for the Daily Camera. Email Silvia at email@example.com, Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the Daily Camera, 5450 Western Ave., Boulder 80301.