Artists Try to Save City Park Golf Course Trees From Drainage Project

Artists Try to Save City Park Golf Course Trees From Drainage Project
Kim Shively
As Denver officials prepare to turn a portion of City Park Golf Course into a stormwater drainage reservoir, a project that will involve cutting down roughly 260 trees, arts activists are staging a last-minute intervention, hoping to save 80 percent of the trees that are slated to be removed to make room for a retention area.

"It’s kind of insane to think that they can’t design something that would save more trees than that," says artist Kim Shively, who earlier this week noticed yellow ribbons tied around many of City Park's trees, warning people that they would be removed for construction over the next five days. "That’s a third of the trees in the golf course."

The group's plan is to place flowers, objects and photographs under each doomed tree and to invite the public to see the memorials from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 29 (use the 23rd Avenue entrance to City Park just east of York Street; the golf course is across the street).

"I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get all of them, because there are so many," she says.

While Shively is passionate about the trees, she's no golf booster. "I hate golf. I think golf is stupid, and it’s a huge waste of water resources," she says. 

click to enlarge KIM SHIVELY
Kim Shively
Still, the trees on the golf course serve a critical role in keeping the city cooler — the artists involved in the action describe Denver as "an urban heat island" — and removing them will be a detriment to Denver's already not-so-clean air, Shively notes. And despite the city's promises to replant saplings, it will take decades for them to grow to the size of the 100-year-old trees that will be removed.

Nancy Kuhn, the communications director for Denver Public Works, responded to the artists' intervention with the following statement:

Trees have been a driving force of the City Park Golf Course redesign effort, and the team has taken great care to minimize the impact to trees while balancing golf playability and drainage needs.

Approximately 260 trees will be removed through the redesign and about 750 new trees will be planted - roughly 600 to 700 of the new trees will be planted on the golf course and the rest of the required trees will be planted off-site. These planting efforts will replace the tree canopy lost through the redesign in about 10 years' time.

The City Park Golf Course Redesign Project represents a key opportunity to address the need for increased flood control to protect residents and other property owners in the Montclair Basin and improve water quality. The newly planted trees on the golf course will be placed in an environment in which they will flourish.

Of the trees to be removed at the golf course, approximately 19% are in Poor/Very Poor Condition or Dead. Of the Good and Fair-rated trees to be removed, approximately 55% of them are younger trees with diameters of less than 12 inches. All perimeter trees (except for 5 at the entrance) will remain, in addition to several large historic groves of trees internal to the site.

Harmonizing stormwater management and recreation in urban parks is a best practice that cities around the world are utilizing to create great public spaces that provide a multitude of environmental benefits. 
While Shively has no hope that the the action will prevent the golf course from closing on November 1, she says, "At the least, we’re hoping we can convince them to save some of the trees."

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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris