How Many Acres of Natural Areas Did Denver Have Before De-designating the Nine Acres?

On January 2, 2013, Laurie Dannemiller, Manager of Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR), de-designated 9 acres of the Hentzel Park Natural Area, clearing the way for the Denver City Council to consider authorizing the swap of a total of 11.5 acres of land previously  managed by DPR and some money to Denver Public Schools in exchange for a building at 1330 Fox Street.  DPR would get nothing in the deal.

DPR  handed out a letter-sized map at the at the November 8, 2012 DP&R Advisory Board meeting.  The map indicates there are only 165.7 acres of designated Natural Areas in Denver’s Park system.  This is apparently correct.  Now there are 156.7 acres.

At that Advisory Board meeting The DP&R staff was asked about possible Denver land that could be designated as official Denver Natural Area to make up for the loss of the 9 acres of the Paul Hentzell Natural Area if it were de-dedicated.  A DP&R staff member estimated there might be 3 acres available.  He indicated there really wasn’t much land available that would be appropriate.

This statement is very confusing to anyone looking at DP&R information about Denver’s Natural Areas in their publications or on their website.   Also available at that meeting was A Guide to Denver Parks & Recreation, a large, glossy folded brochure. This Guide states under the heading Natural Areas, “The Denver Natural Areas Program is a component of the Denver Parks and Recreation Natural Resources Division and manages nearly 1800 acres of natural open space within Denver’s urban boundaries.  The purpose of the Natural Areas Program is to preserve some of our natural history so that future generations can understand our native heritage.  The Natural Areas provide habitat and resources for urban wildlife and support healthy ecosystems throughout the city.  The mission of the Natural Areas Program is to sustain natural processes wherever possible.

On the DP&R website, there are many more confusing statements:

http://www.denvergov.org/NaturalAreas/AboutUs/tabid/435002/Default.aspx   The last sentence in the About Us section states, “Natural Areas within the Parks and Recreation arena consists of approximately 4,000 acres.”   Since the term is capitalized and in a section devoted to the Natural Areas program, it is an important website error that would wrongly convince anyone that Denver has lots of acreage designated as Natural Areas.

Denver Parks and Recreation unveils process for Re-imagining Play at historic City Park  At the bottom of the page there is a statement that begins, “Denver Parks + Recreation…”   The last sentence says, “It embraces nearly 3,000 acres of “traditional” parks and parkways, 2,500 urban natural acres and close to 8,000 acres of urban forest within the city alone.”

The above number, 2500 urban natural acres, is also in the Welcome message at http://www.denvergov.org/Default.aspx?alias=www.denvergov.org/parksandrecreation  .

Finally, there is a Denver’s Natural Areas brochure at http://www.denvergov.org/Portals/626/documents/NA%20Broch04.pdf  .  It states “Approximately 3000 acres within the urban environment retain or have the potential to re- establish fundamental natural features and critical wildlife habitats. These areas include wetlands, riparian corridors, shrublands and upland prairies.

DP&R may not be trying to misrepresent data about Denver’s Natural Areas and  Natural Area Program, but the information they publish is clearly contradictory and confusing.