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Clouds over Fort Collins: settlement, urban expansion, and flooding along a layered landscape




Purdy, Tristan, author
Childers, Michael, advisor
Orsi, Jared, advisor
Grigg, Neil, committee member

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Fort Collins, Colorado, home to over 150,000 people along the northern Front Range, is prone to flood. This natural disaster threat is not a recent development nor a strictly natural problem. Rather, flooding in Fort Collins is informed by the interaction of the local environment and the city's growth and development beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. This thesis explores the historical roots of Fort Collins's flood threat by considering the social, economic, and political factors that informed the physical shape of the city and how the city interacted with the watershed within which it sat. By tracing how the city's agrarian root's informed its location, and how a university, (usually) pleasant weather, and westward migration paved the way for urban and suburban expansion, this thesis displays flooding not as an exterior threat, but a natural process that has become enmeshed in Fort Collins's physical structure. Fort Collins is just one of many mid-sized American cities across the American West whose growth over the past century-and-a-half has created increasingly pressing environmental concerns. Addressing contemporary and future concerns over further growth and an increasingly unstable environment in Fort Collins and cities like it begins with understanding the historic interconnections between city growth and the environmental problem in question.


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American West
Fort Collins
urban expansion
Front Range


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