Kim Bailey

Denver Parks + Recreation

I'm a logico-deductive sort of person, I think A comes before B, and I firmly believe that 1 + 1 = 2. And I don't need any insider information to figure out what's going on in the public sector of Denver, because so much of it is, well, public.

I'm pointing out how my mind works so that you can understand how I've come to the conclusion that Kim Bailey, the director of Denver Parks + Recreation, is doing a terrible job as steward of the system.

I base my bad opinion of Bailey not on an informant's testimony or on leaked documents, but on the shabby -- and in places heartbreaking -- condition of our parks and parkways. They're an absolute mess. And when Mayor John Hickenlooper says he wants to plant a million trees in the next several years, it makes me wonder when we're going to start saving the ones that are already here, many of which are on the verge of dying.

Here's the background: In the summer of 2002, there was a severe drought and water shortage. As luck would have it, James Mejia was the head of the parks department, and he didn't know a thing about trees and shrubs. With no horticultural expertise, he arbitrarily mandated an across-the-board cut of half the water used by the parks system. The results were as could be expected: thousands of mature trees and bushes dying from lack of water -- a substantial financial and aesthetic loss to the city.

Fast-forward to now, with Bailey at the helm. Though still under drought conditions, there is currently no water shortage in the mountain reservoirs, so the faucet could be loosened a little bit. But it hasn't been, at least not in east central Denver, where I live. I take the parkways everywhere and love them, which is why I'm disgusted when I notice eighty-year-old conifers -- such as the one on Sixth Avenue pictured above -- in advanced drought stress. The situation is so grave that the damage is noticeable as I zoom by in my car, which makes me shudder to think what the trees look like up close.

One of the excuses being put forward for the shabby condition of the parks and parkways is that meth heads have stolen the metal parts from some sprinklers, and that's why portions of Monaco Parkway, for example, have not been watered in more than a year. What? Have water-tank trucks suddenly gone out of fashion? What about fire hydrants -- you know, like the ones being used by the developers who are popping and scraping along all those same parks and parkways?

I think you can judge any public official by how well he or she handles a crisis. Denver's parks and parkways are beyond the crisis point. That Kim Bailey has done nothing to effectively address the problem indicates that she's the wrong one for the job.

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