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

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

Will You Sign Our Petition?

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Park Hill Golf Course is the last large (155 acre) open space in Denver sitting along Colorado Blvd. between 35th and 40th Avenues. In 1997, Mayor Wellington Webb championed the preservation of this open space by purchasing a $2 million conservation easement from the Clayton Foundation to last in perpetuity.  Clayton sold their development rights to Denver and Denver tax payers paid the bill. Only City Council can release the conservation agreement.

Denver has increasingly lost open space in favor of development and is on the rise for air and water pollution, and flood risks for lack of permeable surface. The schedule closing date for the sale of the Park Hill Golf Course is July 11th by Westside Investment Partners, a seasoned developer.

Denver was once known as a City within a park. Sign this petition in favor of upholding the Conservation Easement in perpetuity and let our elected officials know that the citizens of Denver voted for 2A and want to see action.

Sign the petition here http://chng.it/NzyMjDGL