Sarah Crough, whose mom, Lizzie, calls a “tweenager,” remembers how much the splinters she’d get on the old City Park playground hurt. So does Mayor Michael Hancock — even if the playground wasn’t built until 1996, which meant he was injuring himself in his twenties. At a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, both said they were glad the playground’s gone and a new, safer one has risen in its place.
“I love the original quite a bit,” said Sarah’s sister and fellow tweenager, Carolina Crough. “I just thought that it was kind of worn down. Some of the stuff didn’t work out as well. There used to be like a ladder…but that was just broken.”
Now, she can climb to her heart’s content — though Sarah is the family’s climber.
The new playground is largely brown — a tip of the hat to the wooden structure it replaced — with navy blue highlights. It boasts dragon and castle climbing structures, a spiral tunnel slide, towers, a rope bridge, a wavy walk, spinners and a merry-go-’round. There’s also an open-air pavilion and an area for kids 5 and under.
“It’s cool,” Sarah says. “The old one was classic. I would say this one is a little more modern and can have a little bit more stuff that you can get to and a lot more things you can do.”
City officials say the park is proof that voters investing in infrastructure improve Denver neighborhoods.
Happy Haynes, Denver Parks and Recreation’s executive director, opened the ribbon-cutting ceremony with a land acknowledgement, followed by a celebration of voters for supporting the 2017 Elevate Denver Bond that funded the new playground.
“For nearly 25 years, families across the city and even those visiting Denver came to play on the old wooden playground that was here before,” said Haynes. “With all that love, it became worn and in need of replacement. Thanks to Denver voters — yay, voters — who approved the Elevate Denver bond, we are here today to celebrate this newest playground.”
The Elevate Denver Bond dedicated $937 million to city infrastructure projects, from roads and sidewalks to libraries and parks. Denver Parks and Recreation received $152 million for various improvements.
One of the perks at the new facility: accessible play structures.
The playground offers a wheelchair accessible swing donated by the LuBird Light Foundation. The nonprofit was formed four years ago, and it’s named after founder Juliet Dawkins’s child Lucia, who was born with Pallister-Killian syndrome.
Dawkins recalled taking her kid, who uses a wheelchair, to playgrounds around town, and there were no structures for her to enjoy. The family learned about accessible swings and requested Denver Parks and Recreation bring one to Robinson Park.
“They brought one in, and we found her joy,” Dawkins said. “That’s the one thing that she just lights up for.”
The LuBird Light Foundation is working to install the swings in every park in Denver. So far, they have added nearly twenty to city parks.
Hancock nudged playground-happy voters to support new bonds on the ballot.
Hancock used the ribbon-cutting as a chance to thank Denver voters for the 2017 bond and boost his $450 million bond package that voters are weighing in on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
Five ballot measures comprise the mayor’s latest bond package, 2A through 2E, that if passed would fund housing, transportation, libraries and cultural centers, city facilities and a new arena.
“Investing in our infrastructure is so critically important,” the mayor said. “This playground will be here for the next several decades. And it’s important that we continue to evolve and continue to make these critical investments. And so, as we thank the people of Denver for 2017, let’s keep going. Let’s continue to invest in our infrastructure.”
Safety was on peoples’ minds at the grand opening.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony comes in the shadow of a report about Denver Parks and Recreation, in which Denver Auditor Timothy O’Brien accused the department of failing to communicate to the public how it’s using taxpayer dollars and failing to live up to Parks and Rec’s own standards for safety and upkeep.
“When the public sees graffiti, human waste, drug paraphernalia, and unsafe conditions at parks, it’s reasonable for them to wonder where those tax dollars they approved went,” O’Brien said in a statement. “The city has millions to spend but a lot of work to do before the parks are in the condition expected by anyone who cares about our city.”
For Lizzie, Carolina and Sarah’s mother, the playground is a sign that the city is doing right by neighbors. She has lived in the Whittier neighborhood for 16 years. She raised her kids at the old City Park playground and is thrilled about the changes.
“It’s just obvious how needed this was for our neighborhood because there’s so many kids we have,” she said. “At one point we had about 50 kids under the age of 10 within like a four block area. It’s nice to finally have access to something safe.”