Denver’s about to reimagine City Park, again

An open house meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. at City Park Pavilion marks the beginning of the next master plan process for the 330 acres east of downtown.
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City Park, circa 1908. (Library of Congress)

Jazz at City Park, June 5, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

In 2001, the city of Denver published a plan that would direct some $60 million of spending at City Park, one of its oldest and largest parks. The results included revamps of its lakes, new trails and repairs to a historic fountain.

Tonight, the city sets out to do it all again.

An open house meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. at City Park Pavilion marks the beginning of the next master plan process for the 330 acres east of downtown.

"On all the tourism sites, it’s the City Park shot that’s always shown, with the pavilion and the mountains," said city planner Kelly Ream.

How people use parks keeps changing, and there are unimplemented elements from previous plans, so it's time for a new look at what City Park can and should be. One major question will be how people get around the park in the future. A 2010 plan -- not the last master plan -- suggested that the city reconnect paths throughout the park and improve bike accessibility. It also suggested closing certain exits and roads to focus more vehicles onto Park Boulevard.

City Park, circa 1908. (Library of Congress)

"There were some really interesting things that came out of that circulation plan that weren’t fully realized and that I think we’d like to have a continuing conversation about," said Mark Tabor, an assistant director for Denver Parks and Recreation.

The plan also will be a way to talk about some of the "emerging trends," in the use of parks, Tabor said, including a move to incorporate more natural play areas and more active recreation, such as athletic courts.

The $182,000 planning project is primarily funded by the city and History Colorado, with contributions from Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (both are in the park) as well as Historic Denver, City Park Alliance and City Park Friends & Neighbors.

Canada geese fly over City Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The master plan is just getting underway, with completion expected next spring. It will include recommendations for specific projects.

The city also is considering a number of City Park projects for inclusion in the debt package that voters will be asked to approve this fall.

Possibilities for that package include $5 million for trails and signage to fix a "confusing" pedestrian situation; a $2 million replacement of the Dustin Redd playground; and $535,000 to restore the DeBoer Waterway in the southeast corner of the park.

The City Park planners will have to reckon with a well-organized set of locals with a deep-seated interest in the park. Across 23rd Avenue, flood-control infrastructure planned for the City Park Golf Course has mobilized people who fear changes to the historic area.

Denver over the frozen Ferril Lake in City Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Bridget Walsh, a key player in that stormwater-project opposition, said that they want to see the golf course brought into this design project, partially in hopes that it might be another place to debate the appropriateness of the flood-control project on the golf course.

"City Park Golf Course is a park, and we believe that the design guidelines should be extended" to include it, she said. She also wants to see more done to address algae growth in the park's lakes, which she attributes to stormwater runoff.

"I think that the city might be trying to take care of City Park and City Park Golf Course, but I don’t know if they’ve done enough," Walsh added.

Outdoor portrait of men and women in a canoe at City Park. Between 1904 and 1915. (Charles Lillybridge/History Colorado/90.152.417 DPLY)

For the city's part, Ream put it this way:

"In this plan we’re acknowledging the surrounding community is changing, and also park trends are changing," she said. Parks planners want "to make sure we can maintain the historic character of city park."

This first meeting will be about explaining the process to come and soliciting early feedback. More meetings will follow this fall and winter.

The schedule for the City Park Master Plan. (City of Denver)

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