As of December 5, 2012, the following organizations have endorsed this Position Statement, originated by Denver Park Advocates:


Rocky Mountain Chapter, Sierra Club
Audubon Society of Greater Denver
Inter-neighborhood Cooperation Park Committee
Officers of Friends and Neighbors of Cheeseman Park
(Please note this is a corrected list.  Previously, one organization had been listed that had not yet finalized its endorsement.)

POSITION STATEMENT AND CALL

At the November 8, 2012 meeting of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Denver Department of Parks and Recreation (DDPR) Manager Lauri Dannemiller brought forward a request from the Denver Public Schools that 9 acres of the Hentzell Park Natural Area be “de-designated”. The proposed de-designation would allow DPS to use the land as a site, along with 2.5 acres of land adjacent to the site that is owned by the City, for a pre-school/elementary school complex. In exchange, a building at 1330 Fox Street, now owned by the Denver Public Schools and used for DPS programs, will house the city’s new Domestic Violence Center, a mayoral priority. DDPR would lose parkland as a result of this arrangement.

We do not take a position on the need for a new school in southeast Denver or on the location of a home for the City’s Domestic Violence Center. We do assert, however, that the loss of land that has been designated as a Natural Area in order to accomplish these goals sets an unacceptable precedent that could erode the quality and size of Denver’s park system.

The designated Natural Area is part of 71 acres of undeveloped parkland in southeast Denver along Cherry Creek called the Paul A. Hentzell Park.1 The parkland north of the creek has “some of the last remnants of native prairie vegetation in the City”; two areas contain a diverse collection of uncommon grasses and wildflowers; and a third has diverse prairie vegetation (see Hentzell Park Management Plan). The floodplain area adjacent to Cherry Creek contains cottonwoods and the areas away from the creek contain native and non-native species. The park department’s own Management Plan for Hentzell called for designation of some of this land as a Natural Area. The guiding vision was that it would be “restored as a showy example of the sandhills and riparian vegetation that once existed in the area” (p. 25). In 2007, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recommended, and the DDPR Manager approved, formal designation of the Natural Area.

The controversy that has arisen over the de-designation of part of the Hentzell Park Natural Area has unearthed serious problems with the way in which Denver parkland is classified and protected. These problems include:

1. It is within the authority of the DDPR Manager to de-designate Natural Areas. We argue that all parkland managed by the DDPR including Natural Areas, Parks, and Open Spaces, for example, is held in the public trust. It is not land to be used (or sold) for purposes removed from conservation, preservation, and recreation. Indeed, the City Charter provides the model (see Part 4, Section 2.4.5): It explicitly prohibits the sale or leasing of land designated as a park by ordinance without approval by a majority of registered voters. Therefore, the de-designation of 9 acres of the Hentzell Park Natural Area violates the spirit of the City Charter.

2. A significant minority of what the DDPR 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. Therefore, these undesignated “parks” are at some 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.

3. We need more not less land to achieve the goals of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation stated mission (see the DDPR 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 urban areas, it is critical that we convert more land than we have at present to parkland of all types.

In light of these issues and threats to the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation System posed by the precedent that would be set by the proposed de-designation of 9 acres of the Hentzell Park Natural Area, we call on the Mayor and the City Council to:

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.

We ask that citizens concerned with maintaining our parkland and enhancing our park system, before December 13, 2012:

1. Email comments to DDPR Manager Lauri.Dannemiller@denvergov.org; Mayor Michael Hancock milehighmayor@denvergov.org; or parksandrecreation@denvergov.org; or mail them to DDPR Manager, Lauri Dannemiller, 201 W. Colfax Ave., Dept. 601, Denver, CO 80202;

2. Email comments to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board members (See List 1 below) who will be voting on the de-designation of 9 acres of Hentzell Park Natural Area (in subject line: parksandrec@denvergov.org) on Dec. 13, 2012;

3. Attend the Denver Parks and Recreation Advisory Board public meeting December 13, 2012 at the Wellington Web Municipal Building, 201 W. Colfax Ave., 4th Floor, Room 4.F.6 at 5:30 pm. While there will not be a public hearing at this meeting, there will be 15 minutes of time for public comment prior to the beginning of the meeting. After this meeting, a decision will be made as to the de-designation of Hentzell Natural Area; and

4. Direct comments to the Denver City Council (www.denvergov.org/dcitycouncil/DenverCityCouncil/CouncilMembers) (See List 2 below).

Advocates for Denver’s Parks

11/28/2012

List 1: Members of the Department of Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

Noel Copeland ndcopeland@aol.com (District 1)

Bernie Sharp bmsharp@comcast.net (District 2)

Derek Sandos Derek.sandos@hotmail.com (District 3)

Anne Green arg7064@gmail.com (District 4)

Leslie Holben Twarogowski leslieht@outlook.com (District 5)

May McCoin mmindenver@gmail.com (District 6)

Conor Hollis conor@siloworkshop.com (District 7)

Keith Pryor Haydenpryor@msn.com (District 8)

Jay April april@opttek.com (District 9)

Mary Ewing maryewing6262@gmail.com (District 10)

James R. Coleman jcoleman@acescholarships.org (District 11)

Darrell Watson darrellbwatson@gmail.com (At-large)

Shane Christopher Wright shanewright.office@gmail.com (At-large)

Marcus Pachner marcus@thepachnercompany.com (Mayor)

Jason Robinson Jrob100@hotmail.com (Mayor)

Dan Smink dan.smink@gmail.com (Mayor)

James Allen James_allen@dpsk12.org (DPS)

List 2: Members of City Council  (This council must approve ultimately the transfer of this land to Denver Public Schools which is a legal entity separate from the City and County of Denver.)

Susan Shepherd, District 1: susan.shepherd@denvergov.org

Jeanne Faatz District 2: Jeanne.faatz@denvergov.org

Paul Lopen, District 3: paul.openz@denvergov.org

Peggy Lehmann, District 4: peggy.lehmann@denvergov.org

Mary Beth Susman (President), District 5: marybeth.susman@denvergov.org

Charles Brown, District 6: Charlie.brown@denvergov.org

Chris Nevitt, District 7: Chris.Nevitt@denvergov.org

Albus Brooks, District 8: albus.brooks@denvergov.org

Judy Montero, District 9: judy.montero@denvergov.org

Jeanne Robb, District 10: Jeanne.robb@denvergov.org

Christopher Herndon, District 11: Christopher.herndon@denvergov.org

Robin Kniech, Councilwoman-At-Large: kniechatlarge@denvergov.org

Deborah Ortega, Councilwoman-At-Large: OrtegaAtLarge@denvergov.org

Footnote 1: Paul A. Hentzell Park is comprised of land that has been designated as a park and land that has been designated as a Natural Area. The designated Natural Area that the City is seeking to de-designate is not part of the land that has also been designated as a park. It is important to note, however, that DDPR documents such as the Hentzell Management Plan refer to the entire area as a park, and citizens have long considered the area as such.

Sources of Information:

Denver City Charter, Section A4.4-1

Denver Department of Parks and Recreation Game Plan (Go towww.denvergov.org/parksandrecreation and then search for Proposed Hentzell Park Natural Area De-designation and Hentzell Management Plan)

Denver Parks and Recreation Overview of Proposed Hentzell Park Natural Area De-Designation (www.denvergov.org/parksandrecreation/link to Hentzell Park)

Denver Parks and Recreation webpage: Frequently Asked Questions (about Henztell Natural Area) http://www.denvergov.org/Portals/626/documents/planning/HenztellPark_FAQ.pdf

Rules and Regulations Governing Natural Areas (Rocky Mountain News, February 23, 2001)

Mayor Hancock Delivers First State of the City Address www.denvergov.org/MayorsOffice/Newsroom/tabid/442244/newsid504977/6744/mid/504977Mayor-Hancock-Delivers-First-Sate-of-the-City-Adress/Default.aspx

Save Hentzell Park website (www.denvernature.net)

Population Projections (http://cwcb.state.co.us/public-information/publications/Documents/ReportsStudies/SWSIAppendices/Appendix%20A%20State%20of%20Colorado%20Population%20Projections%202000%20to%202030.pdf)

Revised Municipal Code, Chapter 39 (Parks and Recreation)

U. S. Census (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/)