Monday, December 10, 2012

Bring Proposed Loss of Parkland to Vote of the People

At the November 8, 2012 meeting of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Denver Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Manager Lauri Dannemiller brought forward a request from the Denver Public Schools (DPS) that nine acres of the Hentzell Park Natural Area in southeast Denver be “de-designated”. The proposed de-designation would allow DPS to use the land as a site for a pre-school/elementary school complex. In exchange, a building at 1330 Fox Street, now owned by DPS, will be used to house the city’s new Domestic Violence Center, a mayoral priority.

This action flies in the face of the DPR’s own Management Plan for Hentzell the purpose of which is to restore Hentzell to a showy example of sandhills and riparian vegetation that once existed in the area. De-designation would set an unacceptable precedent that could erode the quality and size of Denver’s park system, and it highlights serious problems with the way in which Denver’s parkland is classified and protected.

These problems include the following. First: It is within the authority of the DPR Manager to de-designate Natural Areas. This is a flawed policy. All parkland managed by DPR including Natural Areas, Parks, and Open Spaces, is held in the public trust. It is not to be used (or sold) for purposes removed from conservation, preservation, and recreation. In fact, the Denver City Charter provides the model (see Part 4, Section 2.4.5) for how this land should be treated. The Charter explicitly prohibits the sale or leasing of land designated as a park by ordinance without approval by a majority of registered voters. It is clear that the de-designation of nine acres of the Hentzell Park Natural Area violates the spirit of the City Charter.

Second, a significant minority of what DPR labels as parks and the citizens of Denver have come to consider as parks, “parks” such as Stapleton or Ruby Hill, for example, have never been designated by ordinance as such. These undesignated “parks” are at risk of being used for whatever purpose a particular administration considers appropriate at the moment. This poses a threat to our current and future park system.

Third, we need more not less land to achieve the goals of the DPR stated mission (see the DPR Game Plan). The population of Denver, now estimated to be 620,000, is expected to rise to 754,000 by 2030. In light of the projected increase in population and a likely increase in the density of population in central areas, it is critical that we convert more not less land than we have at present to parkland of all types. 
As a result of these issues and threats to Denver’s parks posed by the precedent that would be set by the proposed de-designation of nine acres of the Hentzell Park Natural Area, we should :
1. Bring the issue of de-designation of the Hentzell Park Natural Area to a vote of the people;
2. Mandate the immediate designation of undesignated (and legally eligible parkland) including Natural Areas and Parks; and
3. Revise the relevant rules and regulations so that designated Natural Areas cannot be sold or leased or de-designated, without a vote of the people.

I urge that citizens concerned with maintaining our parkland and enhancing our park system join the growing list of individuals and groups that have endorsed the position noted above ( for a list of organizations), and email comments to DPR Manager or or Mayor Michael Hancock or attend the next Parks and Advisory Board meeting on Dec. 13, 3013, 5:30 pm, at the 4th Floor (Room 4.F.6) Web Building, 201 W. Colfax.
Kathleen Wells, Ph.D. on behalf of Advocates for Denver’s Parks 
Board Member, Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods and Cheesman Park Advocacy Group

 Please do the civic service to send e-mails to the following officials telling them you oppose the destruction of 9 acres of the Hentzell Park Natural Area for a building site. The e-mail need not be long or elaborate; the goal is to let our officials know there is widespread citizen opposition to this proposal. Here is the list:
Mayor Michael B. Hancock:

Parks and Recreation Manager Lauri Dannemiller: 

Parks and Recreation Department—Comments on Hentzell Park Natural Area De-Designation (include “Hentzell Park Natural Area” in Re: line):

Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Members who will be voting on the de-designation of 9 acres of Hentzell Park Natural Area on Dec. 13, 2012. Below name is the Council member they represent or if they are a Mayoral appointee :
Copeland, Noel
303-964-3940 (h)
303-724-0613 (w)
District 1
Sharp, Bernie 
District 2
Sandos, Derek
720-865-2779 (w)
District 3
Green, Anne
303-782-0140 (h)
720-248-3456 (c)
District 4
Twarogowski, Leslie Holben
303-394-7521 (c)
District 5
Mary McCoin
District 6
Hollis, Conor
District 7
Pryor, Keith
303-881-9873 (h)
District 8
April, Jay
720-837-3106 (h)
District 9
Ewing, Mary
303-333-6262 (h)
303-898-9962 (c)
District 10
James R. Coleman
(720) 297-5301 (c)
District 11
Watson, Darrell
303-946-2533 (c)
303-607-2886 (w)
Shane Christopher Wright
Pachner, Marcus
303-825-1671 (w)
720-271-0644 (c) 
Robinson, Jason
303-556-3543 (w)
303-913-7552 (h)
303-913-7552 (c) 
Picaso, Ronald
303-483-8041 (c)
Navarro, Florence 
303-455-2308 (h)
303-275-5501 (w)
Smink, Dan
720-857-8855 (h)
303-501-1821 (w)
720-951-4892 (c) 
Allen, James
720-424-5442 (w)

Members of Denver City Council, who must ultimately approve the transfer of this land to Denver Public Schools (which is a legal entity separate and distinct from the City and County of Denver):

Susan Shepherd, Council District 1:
Jeanne Faatz, Council District 2:
Paul D. Lopez, Council District 3:
Peggy Lehmann, Council District 4:
Mary Beth Susman (President), Council District 5:
Charlie Brown, Council District 6:
Chris Nevitt, Council District 7:
Albus Brooks, Council District 8:
Judy Montero, Council District 9:
Jeanne Robb, Council District 10:
Christopher Herndon, Council District 11:
Robin Kniech, Councilwoman-At-Large:
Deborah Ortega, Councilwoman-At-Large:

In addition, please attend the public meeting on the de-designation to be held by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on Thursday, December 13th at 5:30 pm, in the Wellington Webb Municipal Office Building downtown at 201 West Colfax. Best place to enter is through the doors on Court Place near 15th Street. The public meeting is on the 4th floor, room 4.F.6. Please sign the sign-in sheet as “opposed” to the de-designation, and please state your opposition during the “public comment” period at the beginning of the meeting. Again, a very short statement of your opposition is all that is needed.
Finally, I would be grateful if you would share my e-mail with all of your like-minded neighbors and friends, and urge them to also send e-mails and attend the public meeting


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