Denver measure 2A, a new sales tax for more parks and trees, gets Mayor Hancock’s endorsement

He endorsed measure 2A, which would give the city an annual funding stream for the green goods.
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The hill in Commons Park known colloquially as “stoner hill,” seen from atop the DaVita Kidney Care building downtown, Sept. 9, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Mayor Michael Hancock threw his weight behind City Council President Jolon Clark's bid to raise an estimated $46 million annually for parks with a sales tax hike Wednesday.

The endorsement was timely -- it's apparently National Walk to a Park Day. That's certainly politically cute, but initiative 2A is timely too. If voters pass the 0.25-cent tax increase November 6, it will supply a huge chunk of funding needed to implement the Hancock administration's "Game Plan," a 20-year vision for the city's green space.

"You just cant make the decisions to deliver on the values that are in Game Plan when you don't have enough money," Clark said in an interview.

Denver's parks and rec department operates on $72 million a year. But there's no guaranteed, annual fund dedicated solely to creating and maintaining parks, planting trees, restoring streams and rivers, and protecting natural habitats. Revenue from the sales tax bump would create a new funding bucket solely for those things.

The endgame? Every Denverite living within a 10-minute walk of a safe park, according to the city's blue book.

"Funding is the biggest threat to maintaining the parks that we have and that's before you even get to the conversations about expanding our park system and creating equity where every single citizen, no matter what ZIP code they're in, has access to a world class park," Clark said.

Clark said he's a little worried about voter fatigue from a long ballot. But he thinks voters will be energized by the Trump administration's penchant for drilling on national park land and a recent United Nations report declaring even more urgency to fight global warming.

"People are very hungry -- you saw it with green roofs -- to have decisions in front of them when it comes to the environment," Clark said. "And this is a big one. This is huge for open space in terms of scale."

As for Hancock's endorsement, Clark said he wasn't surprised, but was "thrilled" that he'd get behind it publicly.

Unlike Denver County, Douglas, Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Jefferson, and Boulder counties have a portion of sales tax dedicated to park conservation.

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