City Park and City Park West surround what’s arguably the heart of Denver, and without a doubt the core of the impressive Denver Parks system. The two neighborhoods combined cover ground from Downing to Colorado Boulevard, and 23rd to Colfax avenues. (It’s important to include City Park West in this discussion, because City Park as a neighborhood is almost wholly taken up by the obviously non-residential park itself, leaving a strip of a neighborhood only two blocks wide, if a mile long.) The City Park neighborhoods have a lot about which to boast: the gorgeous and sought-after East High School, a rejuvenated stretch of Colfax that includes the flagship Tattered Cover and Sie FilmCenter and, of course, the museum and zoo and two lakes that populate City Park itself. Of course, all that doesn’t keep residents of the neighborhoods from having their occasional gripes — like these seven.
Geese are nice enough, as large birds go, especially large birds that have little to no fear in approaching you as you picnic and demanding stale bread, potato salad or whatever you’ve got there in that basket, chief. But oh, my God, the poop. Sure, we choose to love them, but we’ve all had that moment where we’ve thought, “Hey, are those lawn plugs, or….no, nope, that’s goose crap,” followed by muttered swearing and then seeking out a place to scrape off our shoes. And geese don’t just keep to the park, either: They head into back yards and neighborhoods, and they cross the streets without any sort of crosswalk or sense of self-preservation. Geese are the Denver equivalent of Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, slapping the hood of your car and yelling,"Hey, I'm walking here! I'm walking here!"
6. New Construction
City Park and City Park West have been filled in for some time now, so the only new construction that can happen requires the destruction of what used to sit in its place. Sometimes, this isn’t a huge deal — when an old, run-down one-story office building gets torn down to make room for a new high-rise apartment at the edge of Uptown, no one’s going to complain to the historical society. When the old LePeep spot on York gets a new life with Syrup, we make plans to go. But all that construction gets in the way, from closing lanes on 17th and 18th in order to get to the buried sewer and power lines, to cyclone fences surrounding the new Denver rec center on Colfax, to the all-too-common scrape-and-rebuild strategy of Denver’s yearning for newer and larger homes.
Long before Highland had the same problem, City Park and City Park West invented the unwise renovation of a small home into a larger one. Sure, it might make more sense to expand a home when you need a little more elbow room, but too many people in the last few decades have chosen to do so without the help of an architect. Expanding your house — changing the visual style and curb appeal of the home itself — requires the help of a professional. (Not that hiring a professional alone will guarantee results—buyer beware.) Doing without isn’t saving you money — it’s buying a lot of headaches, both from your neighbors and from potential buyers when you someday decide to sell that once-charming bungalow that has suddenly become a stylistically unrecognizable box with some windows and a base that once looked like a house.
4. East High
Yes, it’s cool to have Denver’s most sought-after public high school smack-dab in the middle of your neighborhood, and, yes, it’s very cool that it looks so very stately (having been modeled after Philadelphia’s Independence Hall). But with all the awesomeness that comes with having one of America’s most successful public high schools (Newsweek named it as such in both 2000 and 2008), there’s also the hassle of…well, all those damn students. No offense to the kids, but their sheer numbers can be an issue. Just try to drive down Colfax before or after school, or at lunchtime. And God help you if there’s a fire alarm, a student walk-out protest or a Broncos Super Bowl win. The crowds of high-schoolers will be so thick and loud that you’ll be nostalgic for hordes of geese.
3. Races, Races, Races. Oh, and Festivals. And Concerts. Jesus.
City Park isn’t the only place in town that can host your average 5K, but it’s both one of the prettiest and one of the few that doesn’t involve shutting down surface streets. It’s tough enough on the neighborhoods around the park just to have the racers themselves; parking is an issue, as it is in every older neighborhood in Denver proper. This issue is only exacerbated when there are races, whether these are running, biking or strolling. Yes, races are fun, and sometimes for good causes. But when the weather gets pleasant toward the end of April, that’s the time when residents would like to enjoy a pleasant walk around the park, or Ferril Lake, or the boathouse, or whatever their favorite part of City Park might be.
Unfortunately, most weekends from spring to fall, there are scheduled races that might literally get in the way of those plans.
2. The Zoo
Most people love the zoo, especially these days, when the animals are kept in far more humane environments. But living near the zoo can be worrisome, too, from parking issues to crowding to the occasional odors to…well, to escaped animals. The classic Bear Mountain exhibit, for example, wasn’t designed for bears — monkeys were the original inhabitants, but their constant escapes made moving them a better option. More recently, back in 1981, an alligator named Abner was on the lam for some time before being caught. An elephant got out in 2001, and a tapir in 2006. Just last week, a rhino moseyed on out of his enclosure. Sure, these were isolated and quickly solved instances, but you can imagine that the houses on the perimeter of the park might have some zoo-related nightmares — and we’re not talking about the rising cost of admission.
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1. School Trips
City Park, with all it has to offer, is a magnet for school field trips. Between the Zoo, the Museum of Nature & Science and the park itself, there’s just too much stuff that entices hordes of children, volunteer parents and exhausted teaching professionals to descend on the park on a near-daily basis Monday through Friday. (This, along with the ubiquitous races and various festivals on nearly every Saturday and Sunday mentioned above, make quiet time at City Park a rarity indeed.) And you can count the “free days” at the museum and zoo in this category as well — which means those are days when, instead of being at City Park, rational folks would rather be anywhere else.