The Conservation Easement Granted July 11, 2019 by the George W. Clayton Trust to the City of Denver
I. What Is the Language of the Conservation Easement Covering the Park Hill Golf Course Land?
a. The “Conservation Easement” granted July 11, 2019 by the George W. Clayton Trust to the City of Denver and recorded at Reception No. 2019090259 (“the 2019 Conservation Easement”) is clearly labeled “Conservation Easement” in the heading. The 2019 Conservation Easement preserves the entire 155 acres of the Park Hill Golf Course land (“PHGC Land”) as open space.
b. The fourth Whereas Clause of the 2019 Conservation Easement states that that Denver “desires to acquire a conservation easement” and that the conservation easement is granted “pursuant to Title 38, Article 30.5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes”, commonly referred to as the Colorado Conservation Easement Statute (the “Act”). The Act provides the statutory rules governing all Colorado “conservation easements in gross.” See C.R.S § 38-30.5-101.
c. Paragraph 2 (Grant of Easement) of the 2019 Conservation Easement grants to the City “a perpetual, non-exclusive conservation easement in gross.”
Former Denver Wellington Webb sent an open letter to the Denver City Council, demanding a public vote on the future of the Park Hill Golf Course, a Denver treasure and rare open space clearly in the sights of a developer:
Good evening. First I would like to commend the Hancock administration, the Denver City Council and the voters for the passage of 2A and the dedication to our city parks. As you know, parks and open space have always been a core value for me my entire life, including my public career during which Colorado Open Space Council gave me a 100 percent rating as a Colorado state representative.
I believe it is important to briefly recap that commitment so you can fully understand why the issue at hand and the council’s actions are vital to the city’s future. The history of preserving, expanding and protecting Denver’s parks and open space included many hours of blood, sweat and tears. The outcome is that Denver has a vital park system, which unfortunately is shrinking at a drastic rate.
In 1987, after being elected Denver Auditor, I supported a community group that opposed the use of the City Park Pavilion for use as a general city office building. This followed a previous precedent set by Auditor William McNichols who took the position that parks are suppose to be used for parks and not city agencies. This position was also supported by Colorado District Court Judge Clifford Flowers, who ruled by injunction that the city could not locate general offices in city parks.
Once I became Mayor we bought land in Jefferson County to preserve the open space on the road to the Red Rocks Amphitheater, except for the three mini-mansions already on the land which would be preserved in perpetuity. We then moved to acquire approximately 75 acres of park land, a skate board park and roads and infrastructure behind Union Station. I would once again thank Councilwoman Kendra Black for initiating the recognition for me and former Denver City Councilwoman Joyce Foster on the development of the skate board park.
My administration also redeveloped the decommissioned Lowry Air Force base, including 800 acres of new park land. We followed with completing the negotiations with Forest City Enterprises on the amount of park and open space at Stapleton, which concluded with the addition of another 1,100 acres to the city’s park space.
The Park Hill Golf Course remains one of the largest expanses of open space in metro Denver…for now. Anthony Camera
In the pre-COVID-19 era, proponents of maintaining a conservation easement on the Park Hill Golf Club planned to gather enough signatures to land an initiative on the November 2020 ballot.
“Some things are really inviolable, and they should be. Like open space,” says Woody Garnsey, a leader of Save Open Space Denver, the group that’s fighting for the preservation of the conservation easement. Depending on whom you ask, that easement prevents the land from being used for anything other than a park or for anything other than a golf course.
Now, however, with signature-gathering next to impossible until both the state and city work out kinks in a possible electronic signature-gathering process, proponents of the initiative have found an ally in Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who is pushing for Denver City Council to refer the initiative to the November ballot.
The PRAB approved the below recommendations to the DPR Executive Director Happy Haynes which include a recommendation that the city acquire the PHGC land for a park.
Approved by Parks and Recreation Advisory Board May13, 2020
We, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, recommend to the Executive Director the following for 2020 and 2021:
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, we recommend immediately and indefinitely:
An immediate increase in funding for rangers, maintenance, and sanitary facilities (e.g., hand-washing stations and restrooms) on DPR land including parks, trails and parkways. Evaluate and establish protocols and potential safety measures that consider any additional health and safety procedures (e.g., equipment cleaning, etc.).
Consideration of access to our municipal golf courses for pedestrian use of the paved golf cart trails.
Pursuit of the purchase of the Park Hill Golf Course open space at current market value using the unspent funds from 2019 158-2A tax collections ($26.565 million). We understand that this would be a departure from our earlier recommendations; we feel that the current economic conditions and our current cash-rich position enable us to acquire this land and we see it as a very important addition to our park system. Our intention is to recommend the purchase of this land and to recommend its preservation as zoned open space (OS). The land’s use, whether as a golf course and/or other recreational uses, should be determined through the regular DPR public outreach process after the land is acquired.
Achieve and implement a pilot cooperative relationship with DPS for the purpose of developing a significant amenity and/or property access consistent with Game Plan’s goal of ten-minute accessibility.
At least one city council member wants local legislators to refer the measure to the ballot to protect the public from collecting signatures during a pandemic.
The Denver skyline stands tall behind the Park Hill Golf Club. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
By David Sachs Denverite 5/11/2020
Activists who want to stop homes and businesses from being built on a defunct Park Hill golf course have pitched a ballot measure that would require Denverites to vote before development could occur on that site and other park-like lands in the city.
The Park Hill open space saga is long and complicated, but here’s the quick-and-dirty:
Westside Investment Partners, a development firm, owns the land. The company has plans to build places to live, work and play near the 40th and Colorado RTD station. While a $6 million settlement last year ensured a public process and approval from the Denver City Council prior to any development, some open space advocates say a 1997 conservation easement on the site prevents any development at all.
The ballot measure, filed by five activists including former state legislator and Denver mayoral candidate Penfield Tate III, would make Westside’s plans for the property moot.