How green is Denver if you’re Black? These residents are about to find out

An oasis of green space has become a lightning rod in ongoing debates about gentrification, open spaces and racial equity

By

Caroline Tracey Tue 18 May 2021 06.00 EDT

The Guardian

Tony Pigford, The Guardian

For decades, the clubhouse of the Park Hill golf course in north-east Denver, Colorado, hosted weddings and graduation parties for residents of nearby neighborhoods. “It’s been a very valuable resource to this community, when you need event space and can’t afford swankier venues,” said Shanta Harrison, who lives eight blocks away.

The 155-acre golf course stands out as an island of green space in the middle of the only remaining neighborhoods in Denver where over 40% of residents identify as African American. And according to state law, it’s supposed to stay that way forever: since 1997, the property has been under a conservation easement – a deed restriction stating that it can never be developed.

But in the last year, the golf course has become a lightning rod in ongoing debates about gentrification, open spaces and racial equity in Denver. In 2019, the developer Westside Investment Partners bought the private golf course, and has since gestured at big plans: a mixed-use vision that includes both market-rate and affordable housing, businesses, as well as a grocery store and a park.

“We bought it because we knew we could do so much better than a golf course,” said Westside principal Kenneth Ho.

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Yes For Parks’ Launches

Open Space Group Kicks Off Petition Drive To Protect Park Hill Golf Course Land As City Announces ‘Visioning’ Plan For Development

By Cara DeGette

Editor, GPHN  Feb 2 2021

The neighborhood group, Save Open Space Denver, has launched a new petition drive for a ballot measure that would protect the Park Hill Golf Course land from potential development.

Their efforts come at the same time the city’s planning department, in conjunction with Westside Investment Partners, has unveiled a formal “visioning” process to determine how the property could be built out.

The dual efforts are the latest in an ongoing tug-of-war over the sprawling 155-acre property at the northwest corner of Park Hill, at 35th and Colorado Boulevard. In 1997, Denver taxpayers paid $2 million for a conservation easement to preserve the land as a golf course or for other recreational purposes. The golf course has been closed since 2018. Last year, Westside Investment Partners paid $24 million for the property with the easement in place – far below market values for recent comparable commercial transactions in the area.

Westside has made it clear that it plans to develop the property — what has been less clear is how it could do so with the easement in place. State law requires a judge to make a final determination before such easements can be lifted.

The ballot question, if voter-approved, would prohibit Denver from terminating the conservation easement without a vote of the people.

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Less pavement, more green will take a little help from everyone

Denver Post January 22, 2021

By Jevon Taylor

Guest Commentary

Being a “city within a park” is not just good for business; it’s critical to Denver’s sustainability. For a city that envisions itself as a “city within a park,” Denver is one of the lowest-ranking American cities in park acres per resident. Intertwined with ongoing growth and development throughout the city is the need to balance the amount of green space and nature within our communities. Each of us needs to rethink our definition of “green space” to include not only parks and open space but trees and greenery built into the spaces in between.

As our city continues to grow, we, as business owners and community stakeholders, need to be the leaders behind a more tangible, accessible solution and look to retrofitting existing spaces. That includes businesses such as mine in Five Points, working with one of Denver’s largest developers, EDENS, and partners such as the National Wildlife Federation and Denver Botanic Gardens to invest proactively in breaking up concrete and incorporating greenery in our rights of way and storefronts. By working with local community members, nearby schools, customers and the city of Denver, our collaboration will transform the space we manage to attract more business, improve people’s health and contribute to the fabric of the community.

This isn’t just a movement to make the city more aesthetically pleasing. There are well-known mental and physical health benefits of time spent around greenery and in nature, such as lower stress and greater physical activity — not to mention environmental benefits such as reduced heat and better air quality. But as a small business owner in downtown Denver, I can’t ignore the added benefit that customers are willing to pay 8% to 12% more where there’s attractive landscaping. Stormwater bills and air conditioning expenses also are affected by what we do with hot, “impervious” concrete outside our storefronts.

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Salazar: All should fight for water, land

Former secretary of the interior sees conservation as a way to close physical, social, political divides

By Judith Kohler

The Denver Post

Throughout his career in Colorado state government, the U.S. Senate and as secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar has focused on the natural environment and the people who rely on it.

His motto was “Fighting for Colorado’s Land, Water and People” during his successful campaigns for state attorney general and the Senate. The motto took on broader significance when former President Barack Obama chose him to lead the Interior Department.

“That’s always been at the heart of who I am, understanding the importance of rivers, water, land, open space and wildlife,” said Salazar, whose family’s roots are deep in Colorado’s San Luis Valley and northern New Mexico.

Salazar, now a partner with the international law firm WilmerHale, was intent on keeping his focus on conservation. Two years ago, he cofounded the Salazar Center for North American Conservation.

It is his hope that with the country more polarized than ever, Americans can find common ground on the most pressing environmental problems — climate change, land use, water quality and quantity — and that the center can bring together diverse ideas and people.

“I think the area of conservation, how we protect our lands, our air and our water, can be a great unifier for a very divided world and a very divided nation,” said Salazar.

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Denver Wants to Fix a Legacy of Environmental Racism

By

Globeville Landing Park, a newly redesigned green space northeast of the Denver city center.Credit…Kevin Mohatt for The New York Times

DENVER — In most American cities, white residents live near parks, trees and baseball fields, while communities of color are left with concrete and the heat that comes with it. Now, in a push that could provide a road map for other cities, officials in Denver are working to rectify that historical inequity.

The effort, one of a handful around the country, has been bolstered by an environmental tax that added tens of millions of dollars to the city budget. It involves purchasing land for new parks, repairing derelict playgrounds, adding recreation centers and planting trees in areas where shade is sparse.

Correcting decades of discriminatory municipal planning is especially important as climate change heats up American cities. Adding green space, researchers have found, can help residents cope with rising heat and brings all sorts of side benefits, like filtering air pollution or boosting residents’ mental health.

FULL ARTICLE HERE

PDF HERE  Denver Wants to Fix a Legacy of Environmental Racism – The New York Times