Garland Park: Garland Park is my park, and why I'll reluctantly share it with you
Our current cover story, Alan Prendergast's "Party in the Park," looks at how Denver's park rangers are gearing up for a busy summer season. In response, Westword writers are weighing in with appraisals of their own favorite Denver parks, continuing with Susan Froyd's tribute to Garland Park.
I'm a bit reluctant to sing the praises of Garland Park publicly, because I unfairly think of it as my park, and though that's not entirely true, there are moments when I seem to have it all to myself and my dogs.
Growing up in the Virginia Village area, I saw Garland as a personal landmark. In those days, Lollipop Lake, its finest feature, was known for the fishing in summer and skating in winter; miniature boats sailed it then and still do today. Originally, the area was still semi-rural (yes, children, Holly was a dirt road, and there was no bridge across Cherry Creek), and the land belonged to a dairy before the city annexed it for a park.
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Lollipop Lake has since been drained, lined with bentonite and had a storage well and pump installed, making it something less than natural, but it's still a haven for ducks and geese (perhaps a few too many of the latter), as well as egrets, cormorants and the occasional pelican or heron -- blue and night herons both. Red-winged blackbirds call from the reeds at the lake's eastern end, and swallows and gulls swoop over the water; at the blue time of dusk, you can also spot pinging bats fluttering in the trees.
Garland Park was perfectly named for Depression-era grocer and youth-sports cheerleader Dave Garland, also known as "The Saint of Denver Sports," as it now is well-used for various athletic pursuits: The park boasts tennis and volleyball courts; fields for soccer, lacrosse, football and rugby; and two lovely lighted baseball diamonds with bleachers, dugouts and real scoreboards. And though skating is now forbidden, it's said that you can still fish for largemouth bass, orangespotted sunfish, sucker, yellow perch, bluegill, bullhead, channel catfish, crappie and green sunfish.
But me, I just like to walk Garland Park's various sectors, remembering when Cherry Creek, which runs parallel to the park, was a little bit wilder, with a horseback-riding trail alongside it instead of a bike greenway, and a good part of nearby Glendale was still farmland. A few blocks away, at Florida and Holly, was the Virginia Village creamery, to which we kids rode our bikes for penny candy and ice cream cones, and down Dahlia Street, where it ran into Cherry Creek Drive, sat White Sands, a swimming lake with a sand beach and a shady park where you could spread a blanket and have a picnic.
In real time, Garland is still a great starting point for further walking adventures -- down by the creek, or to City of Potenza Park to the southwest and Cook Park to the southeast. And when the days are long, the best time to stroll around the lake is in the evening, when the ducks curl up for the night, the rippling water catches the colors of the sunset, and that peaceful feeling falls over the whole park. You might hear a few shouts from a baseball game; a child might call out in the near-night -- but for me, this is when it's my park, mine and my dogs', and everything is just fine.
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