Over the past several weeks, Denver Parks and Recreation crews have embarked on a series of landscape improvements outside the Hiawatha Davis Jr. Recreation Center in northeast Denver — reconfiguring walkways, replacing ailing shrubs with flowers from the city greenhouse, and spreading mulch over formerly barren stretches of gravel.
This flurry of activity occurs only days before Mayor Michael Hancock is scheduled to deliver his 2017 State of the City Address at the rec center on July 10, to be followed by a complimentary cookout. But city officials say the timing of the spruce-up is just a fortuitous coincidence.
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The new landscaping at the center would have been installed regardless of the mayor's visit, says parks and rec spokeswoman Cyndi Karvaski. "It's part of our regular maintenance budget," Karvaski explains. "We have a lot of work to do at a lot of our centers."
According to Karvaski, her agency prioritizes fix-ups of green areas based on reports from customers and work crews as well as inspections by "secret shoppers," who make the rounds of parks and rec centers on behalf of the city. Similar upgrades are planned for other rec centers, she adds, from Montclair to downtown to the west side: "There's quite a few that we've identified that aren't meeting standards. It's the first thing people see when they come to the center, and it's a reflection of the center."
The area around the Davis rec center has been the focus of considerable mayoral speechmaking over the years, tied to economic revitalization efforts, campaigns to curb gang violence, and Mayor Hancock's own drive to boost youth participation in rec center activities.