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.

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Park Hill Golf Course Visioning Process Tees Off This Week


Conor McCormick-Cavanagh| February 8, 2021 | 8:00am

A steering committee will meet for the first time this week to tee off a “visioning process” for the 155-acre property that encompasses the now-closed Park Hill Golf Course.

“Committee members will meet monthly to help review and consider public feedback, engage others in the visioning process, and ultimately recommend actions for consideration by Denver City Council,” according to the Denver Community Planning and Development website. The 27-person steering committee includes, among others, nearby residents, representatives from local neighborhood organizations, and officials with Westside Investment Partners, the development company that bought the land from a trust for $24 million in 2019. The committee’s first meeting is set for 5 p.m. February 9.

Not to be one-upped by the city, however, at 10:30 a.m. today, February 8, proponents of keeping the golf course property as open space will hold a press conference to “expose some of the very important concerns facing the future of the Park Hill Golf Course land and its conservation easement.”

“It’s our point of view that the entire visioning process is inappropriate and premature. It’s inappropriate because the city has acknowledged it’s developer-led, which is problematic, and it’s not based on city needs overall,” says Penfield Tate, a former state lawmaker and Denver mayoral candidate who has been one of those fighting to keep the land as open space.

That easement dates back decades. Initially, the City of Denver planned to purchase the land, which had been used as a golf course since 1932, from the George W. Clayton Trust, which is managed by Clayton Early Learning, a nonprofit that caters to low-income children and runs a preschool and educational research institute, using $2 million generated by a 1989 bond measure. (At one point, the city had been the trustee of that trust, but was removed in the 1980s.)


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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Denver looks to tree-planting to help shade city as heat islands grow and new greenspace proves elusive

City forester laments “concrete is definitely getting poured faster than we are planting trees”

By Bruce Finley | | The Denver PostPUBLISHED: January 3, 2021 at 6:00 a.m. | UPDATED: January 3, 2021 at 9:10 a.m.73

Denver leaders who for two decades have backed densification, paving over greenspace with concrete and asphalt to accommodate more people in the city, now are turning to trees for relief from worsening heat islands that amplify climate warming.

But urban ecologists and city officials say trees alone won’t be enough to keep Denver habitable as temperatures increase. They urge a far more ambitious expansion of greenspace.

“And concrete is definitely getting poured faster than we are planting trees,” city forester Mike Swanson told The Denver Post.

Heat islands — dense urban areas that are much warmer than their surroundings — have widened, data shows, with Denver emerging as one of the nation’s most “impervious,” or paved-over, cities. Older neighborhoods where houses have yards may be more resilient, researchers have found, because compared with redeveloped parts of the city, these landscapes don’t radiate as much heat.


Facts Regarding Denver’s Need for Parks and Open Space

Revised 12-15-20

  • Denver’s population has increased from 498,402 in 1998 to estimated 734,135 in 2020, a 47 % increase.
  • “Excluding undeveloped area around DIA, 48% of Denver is now paved over or built up. This is up from 19% in the mid-1970s. Expected to 69% by 2040.”*
  • With only 8% of its land used for parks and recreation, Denver has fallen from 13th place in 2012 to 22nd place in 2020 in the Trust for Public Lands Park Score for America’s 100 largest cities. In comparison, the percentages of land used for parks and recreation in some other cities are: Washington, D.C.—24%; New York City—21%; San Francisco—21%; San Diego—19%; Portland, Oregon—18%; Boston—17%; Minneapolis—15%; Los Angeles—13%; Seattle—13% and Chicago—10%. According to the Trust for Public Lands, the 2020 national median percentage of land used for parks and recreation in America’s 100 largest cities is 15%.
  • “Park space per person in Denver has fallen to 8.9 acres per 1,000 residents, down from 9.4 acres per 1,000 residents in 2006 and 9.5 acres per 1,000 residents two decades ago — far below the national average of 13.1 acres per 1,000 residents, city data show. (By comparison, Portland offers 23 acres per 1,000 residents.) Denver officials project the acreage will decrease further to 7.3 acres per 1,000 residents as Denver’s population tops 857,000 before 2040.”*
  • “It would take at least 1,500 acres of new green space to stop the decline and hold steady at about 9 acres per 1,000 residents, and 3,000 new acres of parks to approach the national norm of 13.1 acres per 1,000 residents, city planners said.”*
  • “Since 2012, Denver has experienced more than 50 days a year with temperatures topping 90 degrees. A 2014 Climate Central analysis of National Weather Service data found that Denver has one of the nation’s most severe ‘heat island’ effects, with a 4.9-degree increase compared with the surrounding, and mostly treeless, high prairie.”*
  • Denver is ranked 10th worst out of 229 metropolitan areas for ozone pollution.** In 2019, the EPA downgraded Denver’s ozone rating from “moderate” to “serious.”
  • According to the Denver Parks and Recreation Department’s Game Plan for a Healthy City: “The science is clear, our planet is facing a global crisis attributed largely to human behavior that is changing climate patterns around the world…. Parks, recreation, and the urban forest are vital infrastructure to our city’s health. Trees and vegetation in our parks as well as along our parkways and streets help clean the air we breathe and provide shade that decreases the cooling load on our energy infrastructure during our hot months. Our parks and urban forests hold, clean, and infiltrate stormwater, decreasing the load on our storm sewer system.”

*Source: Bruce Finley, Denver Post, January 13, 2019; **Source: American Lung Association 2020 State of the Air report