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.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Plan could mean protecting 14 million acres in Colorado

By Bruce Finley

The Denver Post

President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled plans for locally- led protection of 30% of U.S. land and water by 2030, a core of his agenda to address climate warming that builds on nature saving efforts launched in Congress by lawmakers from Colorado and other Western states.

Natural land and water could draw down the heat trapping air pollution that causes climate change, scientists say, and nature increasingly is understood as a life support system for human survival both inside cities and in rural areas. Preserving at least 30% of land and water by 2030, they say, is necessary to pull back from a catastrophic tipping point.

Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement casting Colorado as a leader in cooperative “science- based approaches” toward the fulfillment of Biden’s climate objectives.

Colorado conservation groups are positioning the state to play a key role by developing a strategy to save 14 million acres that remain largely undeveloped within the 67-millionacre area of the state — by incentivizing voluntary protective easements on private land, creating new parks in cities and rural areas, and dialing back development on public lands.

Read more here https://denverpost-co-app.newsmemory.com/?publink=19319cd08_1345d6f

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.

“In just the last decade, [Denver has] dropped from 11th to 22nd in park land per capita, leading to overcrowded parks or non-existent recreational opportunities for families,” according to the sponsor’s new website, Yes for Parks and Open Space (yesopenspace.org/). Land development in the city has gobbled up open space, eliminating mature trees, increasing pollution and contributing to a heat island effect — which can raise local temperatures by more than 10 degrees.

Organizers hoped to put the question before voters last year, but were thwarted by the pandemic, as they were unable to collect petition signatures. A majority of city council members subsequently rejected a request to refer the question to last November’s ballot.

To qualify for this year’s ballot, SOS Denver has until mid-June to collect at least 8,265 signatures from valid registered Denver voters.

Meanwhile, last month Denver city planners launched the “visioning process” for the property, including appointing a committee to participate. Others can submit their thoughts via an online survey. Updates are at http://www.bit.ly/parkhillgolfcourse.

City planners detailed the process during the January Greater Park Hill community meeting, Courtney Levingston, the project manager, said the steering committee will be comprised of 25-27 people representing various groups, including residents, neighborhood organizations and business owners. The kick-off is Feb. 9, and Levingston described the effort as a “robust community conversation grounded in equity.”

“All options are on the table,” she said. “We don’t have a predetermined outcome.”

Several neighbors in attendance asserted the city planners were conducting a one-sided presentation, without acknowledging the restrictions that a conservation easement places on the property. “Why talk about developing a property that can’t be developed per Colorado law?” asked one attendee.

Levingston and David Gaspers, the principal in charge for the city planning department, said they were proceeding based on interpretations of what can be done with the property from the city attorney’s office.

The city planners highlighted a few possibilities that could be considered, including:

• Resumption of an 18-hole private golf course

• Park/open space (city would need to purchase and lift the conservation easement)

• Some development of the site with a large public community sized park and open space — (resident-led direction on what, how much and where)

The city planning effort is being done in conjunction with the developer, Denver Parks and Recreation and two nonprofits, Denver Metro Community Impact and the Equity Project. Denver City Councilman Chris Herndon, whose district includes the golf course land, has been supportive of development efforts for the property. Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca’s district includes the Clayton, Cole and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods adjacent to the property. She has been a vocal critic of development.

Last June, Denver’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) voted unanimously to support the city purchase the 155 acres for a regional park. “Our intention is to purchase and preserve [the golf course land] as open space, said Leslie Twarogowski, the District 8 PRAB appointee. “[Denver] absolutely [has] the money to do this.”

A 2019 neighborhood Greater Park Hill Community-sponsored survey found that a majority of Park Hill residents — 77 percent — say they want the golf course land to remain undeveloped. The survey, conducted by the Boulder-based research firm NRC, can be reviewed at tinyurl.com/ParkHillSurvey.

The Fine Print

This is the text of the proposed Yes For Parks and Open Space initiative:

Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver adopt a measure prohibiting the following without the approval of voters in a regularly scheduled municipal or special election:

• Any commercial or residential development on land designated as a city park and land protected by a City-owned conservation easement except where consistent with park purposes, conservation easement purposes, or for cultural facilities and

• Any partial or complete cancellation of a City-owned conservation easement unless for the purpose of creating a new park?

ORIGINAL ARTICLE FOUND HERE

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.

READ MORE HERE

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.

READ MORE HERE

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