by Mayor Michael B. Hancock
I grew up in Denver. I am the
person I am today because of Denver schools, Denver neighborhoods, and the Denver
MAYOR MICHAEL B. HANCOCK
City of Denver
Throughout my childhood,
my family and I lived in several neighborhoods, but the one major constant we
had was this city’s amazing parks and recreation system.
As I look back, it is
indisputable the role that Denver’s parks played in my life. I remember playing
ball with my friends at Hiawatha Davis basketball courts, and barbeques with
our neighbors at City Park.
Today, Denver’s urban park
system encompasses nearly 3,000 acres of traditional parks and parkways, 2,800
urban natural acres and 154.9 square miles of
urban forest. When you add our mountain parks, Denver’s park system spans
nearly 20,000 acres.
As the proud mayor of my
hometown, I have ensured that our parks and recreation system is accessible and
growing to help shape the future generations in Denver that we will never meet.
Over the past two and a half years, the city has taken great steps to fulfill
We’ve made significant
investments to enhance existing parks. Some $25 million has been earmarked to
improve the South Platte River corridor, including the park areas along the
I personally lobbied to have
Civic Center designated a National Historic Landmark – a status it
achieved last year – and we have cleaned up and activated the park
recently with more ranger patrols, additional HALO cameras, more planned events
and fitness classes. In partnership with The Trust for Public Land, we also
installed fitness zones in Silverman, Swansea, La Alma/Lincoln, Huston Lake and
Sonny Lawson parks.
As of last month, we have
designated and protected 460 acres of park land. By
2017, we expect to add an additional 142 acres to our urban park system, with
new parks, open space and natural areas planned around the city, including in
the Montbello, Sun Valley and Globeville
This newly protected
acreage throughout the city includes designating an additional 16 acres of the
Hampden Heights Open Space as Hentzell Park,
increasing the size of this park from 62.7 to 76.7 acres.
During this recent action to grow Hentzell
Park, the City and Denver Public Schools also exchanged 11.5 acres of the
adjacent 26 acres of Hampden Heights Natural Area and a 46,000-square-foot
building near downtown Denver to house the city’s new Rose Andom
Domestic Violence Center. The 11.5 acres, now the Hampden Heights school site,
will soon be home to an early education center and elementary school for our
The reality is, DPS simply does not have space for more students in
schools that are already severely overcrowded in southeast Denver. Too many
children are learning in makeshift classrooms propped up in school libraries
and temporary buildings.
After an exhaustive
two-year search was conducted, this site was determined to be the only viable
option to optimally serve the more than 750 elementary-age children who live
within one mile of the proposed site.
The decision to swap the
natural area for the downtown building was not an easy one. But as mayor, I am
tasked with listening to our neighbors, weighing the challenges and
opportunities of every issue and making the best decision on behalf of the
Do I believe this was the
right decision to best serve this neighborhood and its families? Absolutely.
Will this set a precedent
for future actions related to our natural areas? Absolutely not, as evidenced
by the city’s steps to designate park land.
Our parks and recreation
system is critical to providing and maintaining Denver’s high quality of life.
As our population grows and our urban city becomes denser, it is important to
protect the park spaces that exist, grow parks where we can and maintain parks at
the highest level possible.
Low income, minority and
immigrant neighborhoods are especially lacking access to good parks. Our most
steadfast commitment is for equitable distribution of our wonderful park space,
and we are working hard to bring new parks so that every neighborhood can
become a vibrant, thriving community where residents can experience nature and
When our children have
healthy environments in which to play and when our residents have a
recreational, inspirational and essential respite from the hustle and bustle of
city life, we uplift our entire city. This is the power of parks in a major
growing metropolis like Denver.
understood the value of preserving as much of our pristine land as possible while
also setting out to build a vibrant, world-class city in the Rocky Mountain
West – and I aim to continue on that path.
We’ve accomplished a lot
within our park system over the past two years, and I look forward to
continuing that momentum as we head into 2014.