Monday, December 31, 2012

Columnist says protect parks; Hentzell designation decision pending
By Dave Felice
As Denverites await a decision from Parks Manager Lauri Dannemiller, a prominent environmental writer says “it’s time Denver residents pay more attention to our irreplaceable, priceless parks.”  And, Advocates for Denver Parks say it’s as important as ever to send a message to the city administration in opposition to a plan to give away nine acres of Hentzell Park Natural area.
Environmental affairs columnist Joanne Ditmer says parks, including natural areas, “should be protected and increased” instead of given away for other purposes.  “No one’s making more land,” writes Ditmer in a Denver Post column.  “But there are always people who want to use park land for something else.”
Read the entire Ditmer column here.
Mayor Michael B. Hancock wants to trade the Hentzell Park Natural Area to Denver Public Schools (DPS) for an office building at 13th and Fox.  By Parks regulations, Dannemiller must make a recommendation on removing the natural area designation before the trade process can move forward.
Dannemiller says she’ll reveal her decision on January 2nd or 3rd.  The decision will be setting precedent because no park land has ever been de-designated.  If she decides to remove the designation, she’ll defy widespread public opinion and an 11-to-6 decision by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board to retain designation.  If Dannemiller rejects de-designation, she’ll countermand her boss, Michael B. Hancock.
Ditmer’s comments echo those of Denver Post editorial writer Vince Carroll: 
"(S)hould good people with good causes be allowed to encroach on the city's limited inventory of parks and open space?" Carroll wrote recently.
Carroll concluded:  "It's not merely 9 acres in southeast Denver in potential jeopardy.  If the city can unceremoniously swap that land for offices, it can do the same with any open space not protected as officially designated park land."
Read Carroll here
In another column, freelance writer Susan Barnes-Gelt mentions Hentzell Park as a major issue facing incoming Planning Director Rocky Piro and “citizen concern over the opaque dealings between Denver Public Schools and the Hancock administration.”
Read Barnes-Gelt here.
In another article, Denver Post reporter Jeremy P. Meyer promotes the notion that opposition to the Hentzell scheme is limited to “some southeast Denver neighbors.”  
Respected writers such as Ditmer, Carroll, and Barnes-Gelt, however, seem to understand that opposition is much more widespread throughout the city.  The citizen concern is documented by a front-page article in the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle and standing-room only attendance at the Parks Advisory Board meeting December 13.
Read the Chronicle article here.
Meyer reports Hancock dismisses the opposition by saying “From what we know about controversies is that you hear from roughly 15 percent of the community” and “We need to ask ‘who are we not hearing from?’ ” 
Hancock’s office has not released any of the communication it has received, pro or con, regarding the Hentzell scheme.  Parks and Recreation has posted six multi-page comment documents on line, most favoring retention of natural area.  There were more people in the audience for the Advisory Board meeting than any time in recent memory.
Three of Hancock’s five appointees to the Parks Board voted to retain natural area designation, putting the future of their appointments in jeopardy.  The property is located in Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann’s district.  Lehmann’s appointee also voted to keep the natural area designation.
Both attendees and Board members complained that the Hancock proposal divisively pitted the interest of parks, open space, and wildlife against schools and domestic violence victim assistance. 
Meyer reports Hancock apparently intends to overlook opposition.  “Hancock wants (the transaction) to happen even though he knows there will be pushback,” writes Meyer.
Read the Meyer report here.
Here is a consolidated list of e-mail addresses for city officials, members of Council, and the Parks Advisory Board:
For more information on Hentzell Park Natural Area, see:


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