Sunday, December 8, 2013

StopCityLoop Meeting with Denver Parks & Recreation 12/6/2013

by Linda Drake
3pm at Ford-Warren Library 2825 High
About 5º outside.
Organized by Stop City Loop Org
Moderated by Nancy Francis of StopCityLoop

Present from the City: Scott Gilmore Asst Manager Denver Parks & Recreation
Lauri Dannemiller, Manager City Parks and Rec
Gordon Robertson - Director of Park Planning
Jeff Green - Marketing
75 - 80 concerned neighbors
Absent: Many neighbors who were unable to attend the meeting given timing and weather and District 8 Councilman Albus Brooks.

Please note: This report hinges on a single person’s hearing, interpretation, and typing. Please feel free to email me with any corrections/additions ( These are not standard minutes. Ideally the meeting would have been recorded, and perhaps that is something to think about going forward. There are undoubtedly mistakes and omissions. Notes taken by Linda Drake.

Nancy Francis, a founder of StopCity Loop, ran the meeting. The meeting came to order at roughly 3:15.

There are over 3 million visitors annually between the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the City Park Zoo; 2m to the zoo and 1.3m to the Museum.

Some of the concerns are lights 20 feet tall, food trucks, (missed a point), but first let’s hear from the City.
Nancy said that the City requested a 10 min period for giving information. Then we will have commentary and questions from audience.

Lauri Dannemiller was the first speaker. She thanked people for coming.
She said that she and her team were there to provide information and mostly to listen.
“We’re only about 60% designed, so we have a lot of opportunity left for adjustments.”
She said that this is a good opportunity for input, plus there is a list of meetings coming up. Stay tuned and sign up at or email scott.gilmore@denvergov.organd ask to be put on the mailing list.
Gordon Robertson, Parks Planner talked about goals of Denver Parks & Rec in conceiving of an improvement to the Dustin Redd playground area.
Six years ago we initiated a playground master plan project consisting of a  roughly 25-30 member task force.
Wanted to reimagine play. What we have now in most parks is “boring, tried and true. How to we get people out to playground, both individually and as family members of all ages?  The task force wanted playgrounds to be creative and interesting, and to inspire a desire to participate for people of all ages.
**He said that we can find this report online. I believe that this is the report, Denver Play Area Master Plan, 2008:
         [ The report is lengthy, interesting, and has a page of source materials in the back, one of which is “Kids Don’t Need Equipment, They Need Opportunity,” which pretty much flies in the face of the entire City Loop concept:
Interesting quotation from the original rough draft of the report Children suffer from a lack of access to the natural world. In response, ecological considerations have become important factors in the design, construction and maintenance of play areas.” The play areas to be developed and replaced are “to express the individual character of each neighborhood.” Also, per Nancy, Richard Louv is also cited. He’s written extensively on children and nature, and this project seems counter to his theory that children are nature-deprived:
If one reads the references to the Master Plan, and the Master Plan itself, many of the characteristics of this design are counter to enabling kids and other people to enjoy their natural and neighborhood environment.]
Gordon went on to say that Dustin Redd Playground is wooden and a maintenance burden -  so Parks & Recs asked, what’s next for a playground for City Park?
We felt like it’s a great place to explore Play Area Master Plan. It will be a convening space for play and for fitness.
Lauri said that they now have $1M of the $5million proposed budget.
Often for projects the City will ask for money through bonds - “ this is not a bond project,” she said. We need General Fund money for maintenance. So the cost of this project is mostly from Foundations, not from corporate sponsors. We go to the foundations that have interest in promoting health of our kids. They are not big commercial enterprises, they are Colorado Health Foundation and Kaiser. City policy states that if an individual or corporation gives 50% or more in cost, then they can use their name on the site.
In the main, Parks & Rec is seeking funding from “most likely Foundations or City General fund.”
10% of the project is directed toward maintenance over 20 - 30 year life. 
Two good things about maintenance. 2A gives us 30 new employees to help us maintain the parks. Additionally, how do we take care of it? City gets 6M overall for capital maintenance. In next year 189,000 from Winter Park Trust. We will put money aside to maintain it, like a trust fund for the project.
“This is not Chuck Morris II. I don’t anticipate any admission based events. Not in this meadow.” There will be small scale concerts, not paid events, it will not be a corporate facility. If there is any change to admission-based events, that’s a public process. We’re really looking for public-based projects. 
We are not completed with the parking study. We will go back and talk to neighborhoods about parking issues. We understand that there will be events in the park that coincide with other high traffic events.
There was a parking study done  when events were considered.
In this area of the city, there are 676 parking spaces inside park. 379 spaces in esplanade and East High.We continue to look for ways to make things work. We have a circulation plan.
Safety. We have a growing Ranger Program. We don’t see a huge need, but on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons, a City Park Rangers come thru 10 - 20 x.
We would like to have a staffed kiosk for Saturdays and Sundays.
Physical site 
13 acres within a site. The part of 13 acres devoted to play structure - is 3 acres.  The three acres connected by a walkway. The entire meadow will be available for use as park land. 
We have a two page detailing of community outreach. We will continue to listen and have meetings. If you haven’t heard about this project, that’s our fault.

Nancy Francis  responded to and became involved.
Hank Bootz:
I am not especially given to compromise on this. It’s a meadow and a park. The proposed structure doesn’t fit the environment that’s set up. And the elephant in room: the museum and zoo already take up a huge amount of our Park. The new bus loop disallows crossing by park users. I can’t believe that there will be more asphalt and more paving. You can always have more but you can never have less.
Georgia Garnsey(?)
I know City Park very well; I have walked, played tennis, end enjoyed the park over the years. To me, knowing the history of the Park, in 1881 planners saw that we would need green space - they had extraordinary vision. I feel a duty and a mandate to preserve that green space. Every time I go to Dustin Redd Playground, it is filled with children having a wonderful time. That space is loved, so maybe change out the wood.  Do something different from that space; don’t take a precious, magical, amazing meadow. There are many things City Park needs, but it doesn’t nee a new structure. Putting more pressure on a space that already is under pressure from two institutions; we don’t need more pressure.
Nancy: in your master plan Implementation requirement it says that Denver neighborhood groups should be given tools to do their own assessments. We have not been afforded this opportunity.
Steve Phillips: What is the inception of this project?
Steve also asked for citations on the sociological reasoning behind the City Loop concept.
**Gordon: Master Plan for all playgrounds. The Master plan determined that scope of project should be 3 acres.”
[See pages 96 & 97. The Master Plan designates City Park as a Regional Park, and arbitrarily assigns a 3-acre minimum space to be devoted to play.]
Given the age of Dustin Redd, it needs to be replaced.
Jill Ensla(?) - Can we change it, or are we too late? Are we spinning our wheels?
Jeff Pierson - please respond to (Steve’s)  question - We need the citation and research that recommends a playground of this scope.
A playground in a regional park is in limelight. Generally it’s got to be about 3 acres. We’re competing with electronics like X Box, which is why cities around country are looking for interesting and innovative ways to attract families and children
Jeff Pierson: The research that says what we have isn’t good enough? There are not enough anecdotes.
Lauri D: This concept was full-on professionally done, by MIG of SanFrancisco that identified the need for this new type of Playground. [These are the folks that Denver hired to come up with the Master plan:  Go through the site and you will find the  Denver Master Plan for Play Areas. They have many clients and have designed a lot of public spaces, but there is no real research alluded to in their designs - that I can find. Which is why Steve’s question was never really answered. Cool designs seem to be in, but the psychological, environmental reasons for building them - or not - seem to be lost in the commotion of planning and building.]
Between Master Plan and City Loop, we had an international competition for the design of the play area in City Park.
Audience member: The community in each neighborhood needs to determine what it wants its park to be.
Audience member: The park is a park.
Audience member: I worked 5 days to build Dustin Redd. The replacement you’re proposing is a huge facility. It’s closer to Waterworld than to Dustin Redd. The cool interactive features of DR are low tech. If we don’t have the skills and money to maintain this, then why do we have funds for a whole new, expanded play area?
Bridget Walsh: Put your house in order first.
Holly Joyce: This is a great idea for another place. There is an insidious nature to this proposal. It will squeeze neighbors out of the park. It is not viable for City Park.  High rise, infill, duplexes; it is the only green park that we have in our neighborhood. Subtracting all the development (golf course, zoo, museum and parking) we’re down to 150 acres.  This City Loop concept would be beautiful in a festival park. This is the wrong place, maybe a right idea, but not in CP.
Lauri D : This is the interim process, and we’re open to changes. 
Gordon: we are now redoing pieces of it. The road is no longer a part of the project. The version that is out today is not a final design version. We’re not doing away with it altogether.  Have already paid more that 75K. Had consultants locally and out of state. The city pays them.  Why aren't repairs being done? Why are we looking to creating something new instead of repairing what we've got? - We will pay attention to that and try to get a hold of that. 
Young man with toddler: The neoclassical style - people move into the neighborhood due to nature of character of design. All the play grounds. Physical movement v screen time.  Work to a budget and maintain the stone pillars to the entrance of the park, the East High statues.  I grew up on 16th and Madison. Just looks like a part of the suburbs coming into the City.  Traffic - it is congested, even on a Saturday; Downing is just going to build north. The development is huge. This used to be a sleepy place. 
Judy: what is your plan for the tennis courts - it’s already hard to park at there. Don’t use the tennis courts for parking. Lauri said that the Tennis Courts will be unaffected.
Audience member: I have kids at East. much of work going around about East has been funded by foundations. I was aware of this project.  A number of designs were presented. 26 to 18 to three. Two were large and in center of meadow. The impacted area is as minimal as it can be.. This is an opportunity to go and have a space for kids to play. 
David Swan - You’re missing a major item: The
Museum and Zoo have undergone expansions that we’ve had no say in. This is further incursion. What other parks have playgrounds that are part of this master plan? It’s very difficult to access the park now. Now we’re are taking more space. Further incursion that.
Why not Central Park?- it has all of this already. 
Maureen from South CP: I bought the house I live in  26 years ago. My kids are really struggling with this. About 4 min into video one of architects asked about parking - now it’s up to park visitors to find parking in neighborhoods.
There were more comments and the Parks and Rec people listened. At the end of the meeting (4:15) they stayed around for a few minutes to talk to people individually. I spoke with Gordon because one of my concerns has been that the Parks & Rec folks created the project to fit the original $75K grant from Colorado Health Foundation. Gordon said, no, that the City approached CHF asking for funding for this project. He also said that he is hiring a local landscape architect with experience in the historical aspects of the Park to refine the current design and probably make it smaller. He said that they will change the concept quite a bit, but that we “probably still won’t like it.” 
Conclusion: (mine) The City has invested a ton of resources, selecting one particular planning scenario for City Park because they spent a lot of money on both that and the Master Plan - MIGs Master Plan for Play Areas referenced above. They further hired an architect from an international field (which is where the public got their “input,” such as it is, by selecting the final design.) 
All of these City people are 30s/40s in age, and likely won’t be here 10 years from now. Most of us in the neighborhoods will be. I feel that the each successive decision was built on the previous one, with no firm initial reasoning for such massive change. There is no overview of City Park vis-a-vis its history and park use in general. 
This project is propelled by hyperbole and latest-greatest design lingo, it takes precious park land; “if we build it, they will come” is a faulty premise. All that is possibly needed is a decent replacement for Dustin Redd Playground. The three-acre argument is totally specious because City Park is arbitrarily designated as a Regional Park in the Master Plan and regional parks are arbitrarily defined as having a minimum of three acres of playground. 
City Loop is a campaign by a group of enthusiastic and committed administrators who wish to make a mark  and work with esteemed “international [certainly not local!] design firms— essentially blind to neighborhood interests and the continuity of the historical use of the parks. I do understand that they believe in what they are doing, but I see their vision as lacking and limited. Ultimately it seems that this project will go forward, despite our concerns, and ultimately they will do as they wish - because they know better than we do what is needed in our Park! I would love to be proven wrong about this. 
I want a Park I can walk through freely, with family, friends, and dogs; or bike through, enjoying the space and nature of it. I want a nice one-acre playground right where Dustin Redd stands. I want a park that is cared for now, not promises for some future grandiose scheme with a hugely-expanded footprint.


  1. Anonymous7:17 PM

    park is always closed no PARKING

  2. Anonymous9:33 AM

    Well, I will never vote for a public official that supports this plan. Furthermore, I would urge people to boycott any business or corporations that fund this project. That shouldn't be hard considering that no one in their right mind would fund this project!