Denver Post Perspective Feb 10, 2019
By: Harry Doby
Denver Post reporter Bruce Finley’s excellent series about the desperate need for more green space and large new parks in Denver raises several fundamental issues: Lack of available land, competition from developers for the land that is available, and equity for residents in industrial or economically deprived neighborhoods.
Since 2016, residents of Park Hill and neighboring communities have grappled with this issue over the last remaining significant parcel of open space — the 155-acre Park Hill Golf Course. The current owner of the course, Clayton Trust, is looking to sell it to help fund its mission of providing early learning opportunities for children. The golf course, built in 1930, is zoned for open space-recreation, not development. Since 1997 it has been explicitly protected by a perpetual conservation easement that Denver taxpayers paid $2 million for under the administration of former Mayor Wellington Webb.
The city negotiated with Clayton in 2017 to purchase the land for approximately $24 million. But instead of the obvious choice to follow the city’s own Parks and Recreation Game Plan and turn the land into a regional park, the city’s agreement would cancel the conservation easement and allow development of this open space into high-density housing.
Fortunately, this has not yet happened, unfortunately, that is only because the golf course operator, Arcis, essentially told Clayton and the city “Not so fast, Slick.” Arcis’ contract with Clayton allows for two 5-year lease extensions plus first right of refusal to purchase the land.
While this caused the city to pause its plans to purchase the property, it still temporarily shut down the property for the Platte-to-Park Hill flood control project. Arcis later filed suit to further establish their hold on the land which will increase their leverage in any future negotiations should the property change hands.