Park advocates urge mayor to keep Hentzell Natural Area intact
After a strong protest at a community meeting Saturday, neighborhood activists are hoping Mayor Michael B. Hancock seriously reconsiders his proposal to give away nine acres of Hentzell Park Natural Area.
Some 30 neighborhood protesters attended the mayor’s “Cabinet in the Community” at in the Harvey Park area. Most of the activists stood like sentries, holding high large placards and signs across the entire length of the auditorium for nearly two hours. They faced the dais at which Mayor Hancock, District #2 Councilwoman Faatz, and perhaps 20 of the Mayor’s cabinet members and other appointees were seated.
The activists’ presence was quite apparent to the Mayor and his staff. At the beginning of the meeting, mayoral community liaison Michael Sapp acknowledged from the podium the large turn-out of Hentzell Park supporters and requested that they be respectful of the agenda and the presence of children in the auditorium. Park protectors said this admonition was unnecessary, because they had no intention of behaving inappropriately.
When the Mayor was introduced, he also acknowledged the presence of the Hentzell Park supporters, and read a prepared statement that was quite similar to what he read to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board at its December meeting. The statement had been tweaked to mention the new push by Parks Manager Lauri Dannemiller to have the City Council formally designate many Denver parks which lacked such designation. While the Mayor refrained from repeating his gaffe of calling the threatened nine acres of Hentzell Park Natural Area “blighted,” he renewed his pitch that his plan would “activate” this underutilized area.
Park advocates say the irony of bulldozing a thriving, active wildlife habitat to “activate” it with people and buildings is apparently lost on the Mayor. There was no opportunity for public comment during the program in the auditorium, but the Hentzell Park activists interacted with many citizens before and after the program and distributed informational materials to them.
As the Mayor entered the auditorium, he had to walk by a phalanx of sign-holders. When he encountered on activist who asked Hancock to reconsider, the mayor reportedly replied: “I’m still working on it,” and continued walking ahead.
Another protestor, holding a sign, said he tried to talk to Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz at the beginning of the meeting. She reportedly said, “I support the new school there (at Hentzell Park)” and walked away.
At least two residents of the Hampden Heights neighborhood adjacent to Hentzell Park joined the protest.
After the meeting, while walking home in central Denver, one park advocate unexpectedly observed a “magnificent hawk (which) slowly flew out from the alley.” The neighborhood activist says “(the hawk) crossed my path, at my eye level, not more than 15 feet in front of me. He rose majestically to take perch on a power pole right across 6th Avenue. I have never had such an up-close-and-personal encounter with a raptor in the wild.” The activist says he takes this as a sign that the park protectors are on the correct path in campaigning to save the natural area.
In his highly controversial proposal, Hancock wants to give nine acres of the unique Natural Area to the Denver Public School District, in exchange for an office building downtown. The Parks and Recreation Board voted 11-6 to retain the Natural Area designation, but Hancock’s Manager of Parks and Recreation, Lauri Dannemiller, approved the de-designation.
The matter will come before City Council, most likely in March, for approval as a land transaction.
For more information, see www.DenverNature.Net and www.DenverDirect.tv. The scheme has also been covered in depth by the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle (www.glendalecherrycreek.com/).
The Hentzell Park story continues as the issue works its way through City goverment.