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May 2015 • Online Edition

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Residents/City At Odds Over Parks’ Uses And Abuses | Print |  E-mail

by Paul Kashmann

With spring upon us and summer in sight, Denver parks are already seeing the return of hordes of walkers, runners, skaters, bikers, anglers, volleyballers, dog walkers, playground users, and those who just like to sit on a bench or a bit of green grass and take in the pleasant surroundings.


In addition, a variety of commercial businesses – outdoor yoga classes, boot camp clinics, painting classes and the like – that operate within the boundaries of Denver parks will be returning as well.

To better control competing uses, Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has been working to create a policy for permitting commercial activity on public park land.

With the assistance of city staff and a variety of park stakeholders, DPR has developed a draft of regulatory policies and procedures, along with proposed fees for permits and park locations where such activity is allowed. A series of public meetings will take place in April, to seek public input on the draft policy:

Tues., April 9, 5:30p.m., Scheitler Recreation Center, 5031 W. 46th Ave.; Wed., 17, 5:30p.m., Cook Park Recreation Center, 7100 Cherry Creek S. Dr.; Thur.,  18, 5:30p.m., Central Park Recreation Center, 9651 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.; and Sat., 20, 9:30 a.m., Fleming Mansion, 1510 S. Grant St.

In addition to these public meetings, the proposed policy will also be presented and discussed at the Denver Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meetings on April 11 and May 9, 5:30p.m, in conference room 4.G.2 in the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building, 201 W. Colfax Ave. The May 9 meeting will include a public hearing.

City Park residents are concerned that plans for a new play structure being planned as a replacement for the 25-year- old wooden playground in the western portion of City Park will mean less green space for other park users.

DPR spokesperson Angela Casias told The Profile that, “Reimagine Play (the moniker for the new design) is more than a playground: it’s an interactive play space for all ages. We expect the new environment will be just a little larger than the existing wooden structure.” The project is budgeted at $5 million, with seed money coming from the city and the balance from private contributions and fund raising.

Answering charges that DPR has not done sufficient outreach into nearby neighborhoods, Casias said, “We are currently planning a series of public meetings that will be scheduled throughout the year to address the Reimagine Play project. We’re talking to neighborhood groups to see where and when these meetings should be held, but we’ve chosen a design team, and as the process moves forward, public input will be our focus in 2013.”

Casias explained that residents should find that same renewed attention to community concerns citywide where DPR is concerned. “There is currently a stakeholders group of neighbors and concerned citizens working on recommendations. We expect those recommendations to have real impact on how we do outreach in the future.”

After months of heated debate, Denver City Council voted 10-3 (Councilmembers Jeanne Robb, Susan Shepherd and Debbie Ortega opposed) to approve a land swap that would give Denver Public Schools nine acres of park open space in southeast Denver in exchange for a DPS office building at 1330 Fox St. DPS is expected to build an elementary school on the land currently part of Hentzell Park, while the city plans to create a domestic violence resource center in the new Fox St. facility.

Although District 4 Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann and DPS are pleased with the chance to provide needed elementary school seats in the southeast area, parks advocates felt the precedent of trading away parkland for non-park uses is a slippery slope that could lead to further attrition in the future.

Lehmann told The Profile that she will meet soon with DPS and the city to determine the next steps in the process. Rumors have been surfacing, said Lehmann, about a potential citizen initiative that would put the issue on the November ballot.

For information: denvergov.org/dpr; denvergov.org/citycouncil; or dpsk12.org.

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