OPINION: The Case For Parks

Greater Park Hill March 31 2020

Denver Should Revive Its Dedication to City Beautiful

By Maria Flora and Georgia Garnsey

For the GPHN

When Denver’s urban parks and parkways were designed during the City Beautiful movement of the early 1900s, their purpose was to “provide beauty, to promote mingling of people from all socio-economic backgrounds, and to endorse the principle of equality by allowing all citizens access to free open space.”

That was how former Denver Parks and Recreation managers Don and Carolyn Etter described the motivation in their book City of Parks: The Preservation of Denver’s Park and Parkway System. The authors also note that parks were historically considered a “physical embodiment” of equality of access to space and to nature and to mark “the city as a place of quality.”

Parks continue to serve this important purpose, along with additional purposes that have become more critical today than ever before. With their trees and vegetation, parks act as the lungs of the city, reducing pollution as they cool the air and combatting the overheating caused by the devastating phenomenon of climate change.

Denver’s Climate Adaptation Plan confirms what we can all feel – our city is getting hotter. The “heat island effect” (a term referring to the heat that builds up in concretized urban areas) is increasingly pronounced in Denver, especially as open space is developed into impervious surfaces such as those planned for Loretto Heights and Elitch Gardens. The new development at 9th and Colorado Boulevard is another example of increasing impervious surfaces, with concrete and asphalt and an absence of vegetation and tree canopies that could provide critical shade and cooling for the city.

The heat island effect in Denver presents increasing health and safety risks. It has the potential to result in power outages due to overtaxed cooling systems, as well as create higher levels of air pollution and ground level ozone concentrations. The outcome is adverse health effects, including difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, coughing and sore or scratchy throat and worse.

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) assigns a “heat vulnerability score” to Denver neighborhoods, which is a composite of built environment, demographics and human health. Neighborhoods in Northeast Park Hill, Clayton, Cole, Elyria/Swansea and Globeville are among the most vulnerable in the city to this environmental hazard. These neighborhoods also have high percentages of areas not under a tree canopy. For example, nearly 85 percent of the west part of Northeast Park Hill is not under a tree canopy.

In a March 2017 report, the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation recognizes that the northern (and western) neighborhoods of Denver have higher concentrations of ethnic and racial diversity, lack of car access, lowest incomes, and highest levels of obesity and chronic disease. They also have among the highest park and recreation facility demand in the city.

There are more reasons to value and preserve and expand open space throughout Denver, such as the fact that parks keep our neighborhoods and communities fit and healthy. Parks also promote mental, emotional, and social health.

There is no question that parks provide one of our best tools for mitigating the effects of climate change. “Urban parks cool and clean the air, improve and modify local wind circulations, and better regulate precipitation patterns. Well-vegetated parks mitigate the impact of the urban heat island and minimize local climate change,” according to the City Parks Forum.

All of Denver would reap the benefits of the 155 acres of green and tree-filled open space on the Park Hill Golf Course (PHGC) land, a site that is readily accessible to downtown Denverites and residents throughout the city by light rail. (The PHGC land is in the direct vicinity of the 40th and Colorado light rail station.)

The restoration of Denver as a “city within a park” is within reach if we act now. Maintaining the open space and creating a park on the PHGC land would be a huge step toward this goal. Denver does not need to sacrifice more of its precious green space to development. There are large areas of underutilized lands in the northeast section of the city, very near the PHGC site, that are much better candidates to convert to housing and other amenities the community may desire.

Leave the land for the public to enjoy. Combat climate change. Fight for the health and well-being of our most vulnerable populations. And let Denver breathe.

Maria Flora and Georgia Garnsey serve on the Health and Environment Subcommittee for SOS Denver, the organization that is working to preserve the conservation easement on the land at Park Hill Golf Course. 

OPINION_ The Case For Parks – Greater Park Hill Community

NEWS: SOS Denver: Voters Should Decide

From the Greater Park Hill Community
March 31 2020
By Cara Degette

Citywide Ballot Measure Would Seek Protections For Parks, Require Public Vote To Remove Conservation Easements

In late March, Park Hill Golf Course land preservationists confirmed they are pushing forward with an initiative seeking a citywide vote that would prohibit Denver from selling public parkland or trying to terminate conservation easements without a vote of the people.

The initiative would apply to all parks and conservation easements owned by the City and County of Denver, including the Park Hill Golf Course land. The 155-acre property in North Park Hill is protected by a conservation easement. Because of a change in state law last year, removing the easement would require a judge’s order. However, also last year, a development company bought the property, and the city has recently announced plans to pursue a development plan.

This is the ballot title that organizers are pursuing:

“Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver enact a measure prohibiting (a) any commercial or residential development on land designated as a city park or protected by a City-owned conservation easement and (b) any termination, release, extinguishment, or abandonment of a City-owned conservation easement without the approval of voters in a regularly scheduled municipal or special election?”

If the wording is approved, the group would have until July 7 to collect at least 8,265 valid signatures to make the November ballot. Harry Doby, a member of the group Save Open Space Denver, said that collecting signatures would be delayed because of the current coronavirus crisis.

READ ARTICLE HERE

NEWS_ SOS Denver_ Voters Should Decide – Greater Park Hill Community

This Is Outrageous

Denver’s Push For Planning Process On Protected Land Makes No Sense

By Woody Garnsey

For the GPHN

Mayor Hancock and his administration are again showing their true colors in support of developing the Park Hill Golf Course (PHGC) land. And, they’re doing this despite the facts that the land is zoned Open Space-Recreation and is protected from development by a perpetual open space conservation easement that can’t be terminated without a court order pursuant to the Colorado conservation easement statute.

A month after Mayor Hancock’s 2019 reelection victory, real estate speculator and developer Westside Investment Properties, a major pro-Hancock PAC donor, purchased the Park Hill Golf Course. The land, at the northwest corner of Park Hill, is protected by a conservation easement.

 

This Is Outrageous – Greater Park Hill Community

READ COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

Opinion: Forever means forever. Colorado’s iconic landscapes require “perpetual conservation easements” protection

By Melissa Daruna

There has been a lot of talk in the local news lately about perpetual conservation easements. What is this tool, and why should people care?

A perpetual conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government entity to protect land — and its associated natural resources — forever.

The core goal is permanent protection. We need this tool to permanently protect Colorado’s iconic landscapes. It’s therefore critical that we protect the tool.

Since 1965, nonprofit land trusts and their partners have helped Colorado landowners conserve more than three million acres of working lands, wildlife habitat and open spaces that define our state and contribute to our quality of life.

This work is voluntary, collaborative, nonpartisan and local. More than 30 nonprofit land trusts are responsible for the stewardship of nearly 80% of the 2.2 million acres of private land conserved in this state — and they rely on perpetual conservation easements to ensure this activity continues.

To use an example of one well-known area that is permanently protected, let’s look at Greenland Ranch.

greenland_ranch_douglas_county

 

Greenland Ranch is an undeniably gorgeous eight-mile span of rolling hills, rugged overlooks and sweeping vistas that drivers see as they travel along I-25 between Denver and Colorado Springs.

Sitting on 21,000 acres, it is the oldest-operating cattle ranch on the Front Range. It’s hard to imagine that drive without the open space that, for so many, is iconic of Colorado and everything our state represents — and that draws people here in the first place.

And yet, given all of the growth in Colorado in recent years, it’s also easy to imagine how that view would change if dotted with subdivisions, strip malls and big-box stores. Such development would create a radically different look and feel for our Colorado.

Fortunately, that second scenario will never take place on Greenland Ranch. Urban sprawl will never define that land, thanks to a conservation easement that permanently protects it — and the commitment of land conservation partners and the landowner who shared a vision to keep the area in its natural state.

The list of properties around the state that Coloradans enjoy and that are protected by perpetual conservation easements is long — from peach orchards in Palisade, to Fisher’s Peak in Trinidad, to a mining claim now protected as open space in San Juan National Forest’s Weminuche Wilderness, to publicly accessible recreation trails in Eagle Valley; and the list goes on.

In Summit County, the Fiester Preserve adjacent to the County Commons is an example of an open space in a more urban setting that’s protected by perpetual conservation easements; its original easement was put into place to protect the property’s value as an open space, invulnerable to development.

It’s important to realize that while conservation easements are a tool designed to primarily protect private lands, they offer real public benefits — including access to clean water, unblemished views, preservation of wildlife and in many cases, access to outdoor recreation opportunities.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE