Denver has a five-year spending plan for the millions of dollars it’s raising for parks

Residents will get a chance to weigh in on how the city will use the tax money raised through the 2A ballot measure approved in the last election.

Trees donated by the city of Takayama, Japan, in Belcaro's City of Takayama Park, June 13, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Trees donated by the city of Takayama, Japan, in Belcaro's City of Takayama Park, June 13, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Kevin J. Beaty
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

The city on Monday released a plan for using the millions of dollars earmarked for new city parks raised through a sales tax increase.

The five-year proposal outlines how the city would use the money raised through 2A, a ballot initiative passed by voters in 2018 allowing for a .25 percent sales tax increase to collect money for creating and maintaining parks in Denver.

In addition to its primary goal of acquiring additional land for parks, trails and open space, the plan also calls for using the money for improvement and maintenance of existing parks, including Denver’s mountain parks.

It calls for building and maintaining new parks and trails, restoring and protecting natural features like waterways, and increasing the urban tree cover in parks, parkways and public right-of-ways, according to a release from the city.

This year, the city has estimated, the fund will generate $37 million. And they’re already taking steps to put the money to work. Last week, they announced they were interested in turning a property in University Hills into a park with money from 2A. The city wants to pay $5.1 million for the 82,985 square-foot parcel.

The city estimates the amount of money for acquisition, expansion and maintenance will vary year-to-year. For example, it expects it will use $19.5 million of this year’s funds for acquisition and park development, and $12.1 million in 2020.

If the University Hills property purchase is approved by City Council, it would become the first piece of land bought with money raised by 2A. A committee last week unanimously approved the purchasing agreement to forward it to the full council. The property currently houses a greenhouse business, which intends to close up shop once the sale is approved.

Turning that space into a park is part of an overarching city initiative to ensure that every resident lives within a 10-minute walk of a park. The proposed site in University Hills is located in an area the city identified as lacking walkable access to green spaces.

Councilwoman Kendra Black, whose district includes University Hills, said during last week’s committee hearing that she’s been trying to get a park in the southeast neighborhood for three years. Black said there is currently a lot of housing development in that area.

“I’m just so excited,” she said. “If we weren’t buying it, it would become apartments.”

Notably, the city’s five-year plan calls for an overall focus on equity. It means making sure the money is used in neighborhoods that “have been historically underserved, have received less investment” by the parks department.

Executive Director of Parks and Recreation Happy Haynes said in release equity is the “driving principle” for the plan.

“We heard from the community and created a plan that prioritizes land acquisition and addresses deferred maintenance to provide park access, quality amenities and recreation opportunities for all Denver residents in neighborhoods throughout the city,” Haynes said in the release.

Mayor Michael Hancock said in a release Monday that the city is “ready to deliver” after voters approved the initiative.

A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 30 during a special session of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. The meeting takes place in the Wellington Webb Municipal Building at 201 W. Colfax Ave.

The plan is pending City Council approval. After the public hearing, the plan will be presented to the City Council’s Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on June 4. If it’s approved at committee, the plan could be approved by the full council by late June.

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