Clearcutting of Denver Parks
In 2010 City Council zoning changes granted complete control over Denver parks to the mayor, eliminating a vote of the people. Michael Hancock is the first mayor to remove or re-purpose city park lands, even as the Trust for Public Land ranks Denver low, with park land/open space comprising 6 percent of land area, compared to 20 percent in New York City and other cities.
Among park lands affected: the city has traded a planned Park Hill pocket park at 28th Ave. and Fairfax St. to developer HM Capital; 11 acres of Hentzell Park was traded to DPS for construction of a school; a 5-year contract with Anschutz Entertainment Group closes Overland Park Golf Course for over a month every summer to stage a 3-day concert. As part of the proposed Platte to Park Hill Stormwater project, Globeville Landing Park was leveled and City Park Golf Course bulldozed, uprooting over 260 trees with extensive root networks in rich soil microbiome capable of mitigating enormous amounts of rainwater, in favor of an artificial system of pipes and ditches traversing the unremediated Vasquez/I-70 Superfund site, and designed to swiftly shunt quadruple the volume of toxin-carrying rainwater northwest to the South Platte River.
The 2-1/2 mile Platte to Park Hill Stormwater project was conceived as 100-year flood protection for a lowered I-70 viaduct, earlier rejected, then revived by the mayor and governor in conjunction with the 2011 Olympic Exploratory Committee and related plans for Olympic facilities and development projects along I-70 surrounding the National Western Center. Just as plans surrounding the I-70 trench and the accompanying drainage ditch took place largely below the radar, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition reports that Olympic Exploratory Committee meetings largely maintained secrecy, in violation of the Colorado Open Meetings Law, even as the committee recommends pursuit of a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympic games.
Better Parks and Flood Protection for Denver
As we recall the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Houston one year ago and the storms that struck Colorado in 2013 – both of which caused billions in damage to homes and property – the residents of Denver can be proud of the proactive work City leaders and stormwater management experts are doing to mitigate the flood risks that exist in Denver. The Platte to Park Hill: Stormwater Solutions Program is working to provide critical flood protection in neighborhoods east of Downtown most at risk for flooding. Retrofitting established neighborhoods with flood control measures is challenging, but our City is finding creative ways to address widespread drainage challenges on the east side with new recreational spaces and a backbone system to support future improvements.
In utilizing City Park Golf Course, the city leveraged an existing city asset, reducing the need for private property acquisitions. Golf courses have been proven to provide effective flood control to communities through beautiful course designs; it’s a common and environmentally sustainable practice. In the end, we’ll see a net gain of 500 trees. In addition, the 39th Avenue Greenway will add 12 acres of new recreational space. The park at Globeville Landing Outfall is also being improved and expanded.
Meanwhile, Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) is continuing to add park space. Of the 5,470 acres eligible for designation, approximately 4,530 acres of parks, parkways, open spaces, and natural areas are designated, representing 83 percent of all Denver-owned open space within the city limits. The Trust for Public Land defines Denver’s park land as percentage of city area at 8.3%.
Currently, DPR is working with Park Hill neighbors in an area known as a “park desert,” securing ownership of land on the east side of Fairfax between 28th and 29th Avenues to save taxpayer dollars and expedite creation of a place for people to recreate.
Director of Public Information
Denver Public Works