Opinions From The Greater Parkhill Newsletter May 1 2020

OPINION: Don’t Turn Open Space Into A Sea Of Concrete

Keep The Tranquility Of The Park Hill Golf Course Land

By Shanta Harrison

For the GPHN

Shanta Harrison

I live 10 minutes by foot from the Park Hill Golf Course (PHGC) land. Although I’m not a golfer, I have enjoyed the grounds up close on many occasions while attending events at the clubhouse.

Having lived in Park Hill my entire life, the scenery as I drive down 35th Avenue from my home to Colorado Boulevard is familiar. It’s relaxing. It’s home. The vast landscape of trees and greenery creates a sense of tranquility and nostalgia that no longer exists in other areas of the neighborhood. I cannot think of a more miserable fate for that land than for it to be converted into yet another a sea of apartments and concrete.

More concrete? More traffic? We don’t need it. What we need is fresh air. We need naturally permeable surfaces. We need to be able to see the sky and the mountains and the trees. I know many neighbors who share these sentiments. Most of them won’t write letters like this or show up for meetings but, if you take the time to meet them where they are, they’ll tell you exactly how they feel. Talk of more density is highly undesirable as it often leads to gentrification. They love their neighborhood. They want to be able to live here, peacefully, for the foreseeable future.

FULL ARTICLE HERE

OPINION_ Don’t Turn Open Space Into A Sea Of Concrete – Greater Park Hill Community


Respite In Rough Times

The beauty of the Park Hill Golf Course is that, once you take away the golf, it’s already a gorgeous park. And it should stay that way.

Since we’ve been locked down, our daily respite has been found amidst its rolling green grass, wide paths, and budding trees. We’ve even observed a falcon defending its territory from bullying crows.

We understand that we don’t live across the street from a public park. We’re all too aware of the security guard making daily rounds. But it’s apparent that our use of the golf course as a park has been met with no objection from its owner. Locals freely jog the paths, push strollers, and walk their dogs.

Colorado Boulevard still screams on the western border, the Starbucks-anchored commercial development is plainly visible to the north, and nearby ever-present construction is impossible to miss.

But if you stand near the twittering duck pond and gaze at the snow-capped Rockies, it rejuvenates the spirit in a way that’s critically important during this crisis.

This precious open space will be developed if a judge agrees, and if our city council removes the conservation easement purchased with taxpayer dollars and rezones the land. But if the council holds firm, we can retain this increasingly rare and beautiful public asset.

If you have enjoyed using the golf course as a park, talk to your city council representative. Join the conversation and let your perspective be heard. Only then will the falcon be free to fly over Northeast Park Hill.

— Amy C. Harris, Northeast Park Hill

ARTICLE HERE

April Letters to the Editor – Greater Park Hill Community


Formula For Gentrification

Thank you for the wonderful opinion piece “The Case for Parks,” that appeared in the April issue. What our leaders knew was true 100 years ago is even more true today: Parks are not just pretty ornamentation; they are the essential organs of nature tending to the health and well-being of our citizens, even as the city grows ever more crowded.

Today the Park Hill Golf Course land is under imminent threat. It is the last large urban open space with mature trees left in Denver, fortuitously located in the section of Denver with the greatest need for it. It is threatened, despite a conservation easement protecting it that was created to preserve this jewel, in whole.

What would take its place? Greenfield development that will necessitate outlandishly expensive infrastructure spending, paid for entirely by the future property buyers. Since this cost is buried into future property taxes from metro tax districts (controlled by the developer, not the city) rather than being reflected in the selling price of the residences, buyers would be lured into purchasing homes that might at first blush appear to be within budget (if you consider $550,000 starting prices affordable).

In reality, the costs may strain the finances of all but the upper-middle class or wealthier clientele. That is the formula for gentrification.

Meeting the need for truly affordable, mixed use and workforce housing would be better served if they were built on properties that already provide much of the infrastructure otherwise missing from open space — roads, sidewalks, water, sewer, power, etc. This is available just a few blocks away from the 40th and Colorado Boulevard commuter rail station, leaving in place the conservation easement and the Park Hill Golf Course land unmolested — to some day become the public park for which it is ideally suited.

If the city proceeds with a small area plan for Northeast Park Hill, it should center the study on the 40th and Colorado commuter rail station, encompassing land both east and west of Colorado Boulevard.

Harry Doby, Northeast Park Hill

ARTICLE HERE

April Letters to the Editor – Greater Park Hill Community.harrydoby

Conservation Easement Analysis

Featured

The Conservation Easement Granted July 11, 2019 by the George W. Clayton Trust to the City of Denver

I. What Is the Language of the Conservation Easement Covering the Park Hill Golf Course Land?

a. The “Conservation Easement” granted July 11, 2019 by the George W. Clayton Trust to the City of Denver and recorded at Reception No. 2019090259 (“the 2019 Conservation Easement”) is clearly labeled “Conservation Easement” in the heading. The 2019 Conservation Easement preserves the entire 155 acres of the Park Hill Golf Course land (“PHGC Land”) as open space.

b. The fourth Whereas Clause of the 2019 Conservation Easement states that that Denver “desires to acquire a conservation easement” and that the conservation easement is granted “pursuant to Title 38, Article 30.5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes”, commonly referred to as the Colorado Conservation Easement Statute (the “Act”). The Act provides the statutory rules governing all Colorado “conservation easements in gross.” See C.R.S § 38-30.5-101.

c. Paragraph 2 (Grant of Easement) of the 2019 Conservation Easement grants to the City “a perpetual, non-exclusive conservation easement in gross.”

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Letter To Council April 15 2020

Dear City Council Members,

As you surely know, Save Open Space Denver is comprised of the residents of Northeast Park Hill, North Park Hill, South Park Hill, as well as concerned residents of many other Denver neighborhoods.     Our members range in age from their twenties through their eighties, and every age in between.   We are all of diverse backgrounds and cultures, reflecting the diversity for which Greater Park Hill is renowned.   Many work hard at their jobs, some are retired; all have families, and love our community, just as you do.   There is not a single paid member.   We are all volunteers dedicated to our unified purpose of preserving the last large urban open space with mature trees left in Denver, fortuitously located in the section of Denver with the greatest need for it.   The reason the conservation easement protecting the Park Hill Golf Course land was created was to preserve this jewel, in whole, so that it wouldn’t continue to be broken up into small pieces until nothing remained.

Westside Investment Partners (note: they are investors first and foremost — they hire the developers, urban planners, lobbyists and public relations consultants as needed — many of whom perhaps have been in touch with you already) has one goal — to remove all obstacles to turning their $24 million plus investment into a profitable income stream for their investors.   That is fine — that’s what commerce is all about.   However, their interests do not always align with the best interests of the city or more critically, the community.   This is one such case.   We understand and completely agree that there is a critical need for mixed income, workforce and affordable housing in Northeast Park Hill and other amenities desired by the community.   And had Westside chosen to spend $24 million buying up some of the many available vacant or underutilized industrial properties on either side of Colorado Boulevard, including in Skyland, Clayton, or Northeast Park Hill, we would have applauded their vision and commitment to improving the quality of life in our community.   But no, they chose the one health-giving open space that has been the jewel of Park Hill for 90 years — the most obvious candidate for becoming a welcome addition to our parks system — targeting it to come under the blade of a bulldozer.

Save Open Space Denver is not anti-development.   We are pro-smart development. Green field development will necessitate outlandishly expensive infrastructure spending, paid for entirely by the future property buyers.   Since this cost is buried into future property taxes from Metro Tax Districts (controlled by the developer, not the city) rather than being reflected in the selling price of the residences, buyers are lured into purchasing homes that might at first blush appear to be a bit of a stretch, but doable (if you consider $550,000 starting prices affordable), but in reality may strain the finances of all but the upper middle class or wealthier clientele.   That is the formula for gentrification.   Meeting the need for truly affordable, mixed use and workforce housing would be better served if they were built on properties that already provide much of the infrastructure otherwise missing from open space — roads, sidewalks, water, sewer, power, etc.   This is available just a few blocks away from the 40th and Colorado Blvd. commuter rail station, leaving in place the conservation easement and Park Hill Golf Course land unmolested — to some day become the public park for which it is ideally suited.

Save Open Space Denver strenuously opposes the apparent plan of the Community Planning and Development Department to initiate a small area planning process for the Park Hill Golf Course land.  The land is protected by the perpetual open space conservation easement that cannot be terminated without a court order determining that based on changes on or surrounding the land since July 11, 2019 it is impossible to fulfill the conservation purposes of the easement.  These conservation purposes are to maintain the land “predominantly in a natural, scenic, or open condition…or for…recreational…or other use or condition consistent with the protection of open land, environmental quality or life-sustaining ecological diversity.”  As long as the conservation easement is in place, it is a waste of city and citizen resources for CPD to do a small area planning process for the land.

Furthermore, if CPD does in the future initiate some kind of planning process for land that includes the Park Hill Golf Course land, the planning area would properly need to be a significantly larger geographic area east and west of the protected Park Hill Golf Course land likely centered on the 40th and Colorado Blvd. commuter rail station. Such a planning area would allow the city and the involved neighborhoods to address the full range of community needs and desires and identify the appropriate places for residential and commercial development.

Finally, the residents of Denver do not owe a land speculation company any special favors in order to break a covenant made 23 years ago just so the speculator can recover from bad judgment or hubris in picking a controversial location to construct its next investment property.

We look forward to an open and thorough dialog.

For Save Open Space Denver:

Tony Pigford                    Harry Doby

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