FYI - thought you would like to know of this.....not far from our neighborhood ..good to see the City and schools working together.
Lois, Joyce & Marge
Dear Registered Neighborhood Organizations,
As many of you are aware, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will be making a recommendation to Denver Parks and Recreation leadership regarding a proposed land swap between Denver Public Schools and the City.
The Board’s recommendation will come at their next regularly scheduled meeting which will take place on Thursday, December 13, at 5:30 p.m. These meetings are open to the public and are held at the Wellington Webb Municipal Building in room 4.G.2 located on the fourth floor.
Over the past several weeks we have received a number of public comments regarding the proposed land swap transaction, which have all been forwarded to the Board for their review. As we have seen the comments come in to our office, we’re recognizing the need to clarify some misconceptions and provide some additional facts about this proposed transaction and about Denver Parks and Recreation in general.
We have shared the following information with the Board and with City Council. We hope that you will also find the information helpful as you form your own opinions about the proposed land swap transaction.
The proposed land swap between Denver Public Schools (DPS) and the City of Denver requires the de-designation of approximately 9 acres of natural area located adjacent to Hentzell Park, but not in the park itself. This property within the City’s portfolio is unique as it comprises land that is dedicated and land that is not. The parcel of the property in question is not made up of dedicated park land and therefore is not within Hentzell Park. It is in a designated natural area adjacent to the park. The total amount of land involved in the proposed transaction is 11.5 acres. There is a 2.5 acre parcel located within the Hampden Heights North open space that is not designated as such and, at present, is a vacant parking lot in need of maintenance and repair.
Benefits of Swap
Based on their needs for a school site, we have been asked by DPS to evaluate this particular parcel of land. Our Natural Resources division has determined that the land in question is severely degraded due to years of vegetation loss from prairie dog colonies and water drainage.
Should this transaction move forward, DPS is proposing to greatly improve the parcel of land by including sports/playing fields on the site. Those fields, as well as a new learning landscape playground, will be available to the public and to DPR for youth and other sports programming during non-school hours. As proposed, activation of this parcel of land makes it more accessible and useable than it is today – a benefit to the community.
In addition, the school’s close proximity to the remaining open space and adjacent park land will give students the opportunity for regular, hands-on outdoor education and environmental learning.
Adding Parkland and Natural Area
The DPR leadership does find it very difficult to review a transaction that involves giving up natural area, but we are required to evaluate it due to 1) the natural areas ordinance and its contemplation of the de-designation process; and 2) the merits of the proposed transaction based on the greater benefits it can bring to the City of Denver as a whole.
That being said, we have heard several requests by opponents of the transaction to see what can be done to make this a zero-net-loss for DPR in terms of acreage and available open space. We understand their requests and we are determined not to lose acreage should this transaction move forward. In an effort to achieve a zero-net-loss result, and actually add to our open space acreage, DPR is doing the following:
· We will work with Councilwoman Lehman to designate by ordinance the remaining 14 acres of the Hampden Heights North Open Space as Hentzell Park. This will increase the size of the dedicated Hentzell Park from 62.7 acres to 76.7 acres. This dedication of the park space will require a vote of the people of Denver to make any future changes.
· We will add to our land portfolio approximately 5.5 acres of designated natural area in the Montbello neighborhood, and we are working on a memorandum of understanding with the Denver Department of Public Works to designate up to 16 additional acres of natural area at Heron Pond.
We’ve Added Significant Acreage Already
In the last five years, DPR has added more than 225 acres of parkland and natural space to our portfolio and we are projected to add 140 more acres over the course of the next five years. At present, we have nearly 5900 acres of urban parkland and natural areas.
In 2010, our acreage per capita for open space in the City of Denver was 10 acres/1,000 residents, right at the national average and within the goal of 8-10 acres/1,000 residents established in DPR’s own strategic Game Plan. To suggest that Denver has one of the worst ratios of undeveloped land in the nation, as some of the letters have stated, simply isn’t true.
While we are at the national average for urban land, our Mountain Parks alone amount to 24 acres/1,000 residents. When you consider the entire DPR system, we are at 33 acres/1,000 residents – putting us at one of the highest ratios in the country. While we will always have room for improvement, we have impressive numbers to show for the incredible work that has been done over time to add and protect parkland and open space within the DPR system.
Going Forward – Additional Protection through Designation
As advocates for Denver Parks have pointed out in their comments on this issue, there are a number of parks and other open spaces within our DPR system that have not been designated or dedicated by ordinance. We agree that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. While there are some sights that will not be eligible for dedication/designation, DPR is compiling a list of those spaces that are eligible and will work in partnership with the Denver City Council to move forward and ensure more of our available open space and parkland is better protected from any potential future changes.
Lastly, attached to this email is a spreadsheet with additional information about our acreage per capita in Denver.
Please don’t hesitate to contact any of the DPR leadership team with any questions or comments.
Marketing and Communications Director
Denver Parks and Recreation