Denver Civic Center Park Flower Gardens Will Return This Summer | Westword

Flower Power: Gardens Will Rise Again in Civic Center Park This Summer

"We know it's the people's park, and the people are going to make it the most beautiful park this summer."
Volunteers will plant the flower beds in Civic Center Park this year.
Volunteers will plant the flower beds in Civic Center Park this year. Civic Center Conservancy
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Spring was still six weeks away on February 9, when Mayor Mike Johnston announced cuts in the city's budget in order to continue responding to the migrant crisis without federal help. The Denver Motor Vehicle Division and the Department of Parks & Recreation, in particular, would take hits, cutting back on services...including planting flowers in the parks.

The city was looking at up to $180 million to handle the crisis this year, a number that has since been whittled back as migrant shelters close.

But while the seeds have been sown to save money, the flower beds cut from the budget are not coming back...except in Civic Center Park.

"When we first heard rumblings of the flower beds not getting planted citywide, we thought that Civic Center had come too far over the last few years to let that happen," says Eric Lazzari, executive director of the Civic Center Conservancy, an independent nonprofit that activates and oversees Civic Center Park.

A legacy of the City Beautiful movement that sprang up at the turn of the last century and a gathering place in the heart of the city, today Civic Center Park is a National Historic District. The park hosts events both large and small, with the Civic Center Conservancy calling on a crew of volunteers to help maintain the beloved space. And that crew turned out to be key when Lazzari and his team determined that "Civic Center will be a place where we will have flower beds planted," he recalls. "We are able to do that because we've established a volunteer program that's in the park every week: Civic Center Sparkles."

The Conservancy was also able to do it because it's worked closely with the city. "It really speaks to the partnership that we formed with Parks & Recreation over the last several years," says Lazzari. "We've done collectively so much to create a beautiful and welcoming space." When Johnston made his cuts, designs for the 2024 flower beds at Civic Center Park had already been completed; the Conservancy was able to work with the department to have the plants required for those designs grown in the city greenhouse.

As a result, "we will be planting as soon as we can, sometime in late May," Lazzari says. Volunteers and supplemental maintenance will do the planting, weeding and caretaking, working several days a week; the city will water the beds when it waters and maintains the grass, as it will still do in all the parks.
click to enlarge Denver city with flowers and food trucks.
Civic Center Eats will return before the planting starts in earnest.
Civic Center Conservancy
But Civic Center Park, at least, will also bloom with color.

"It's so much more than aesthetics," Lazzari notes. "We didn't want to see those dirt beds, but also when you have people working there, it creates a welcoming environment, a safe environment. The community can come and benefit from that."

Today, April 9, the Civic Center Conservancy will launch a call to action to raise $25,000 to help the effort, and also solicit more volunteers to help the park truly sparkle. (Learn more about Civic Center Sparkles here.)

Although the 4/20 festival, Cinco de Mayo and the start of Civic Center EATS on May 8 (Westword is a longtime sponsor) will all land at Civic Center Park before the traditional start of planting season in Denver — that "Mother's Day window," Lazzari points out —  the gardens should be in bloom by the time the new Outside Festival debuts on June 1.

"This is such a unique opportunity for us and Civic Center," Lazzari adds. "We know it's the people's park, and the people are going to make it the most beautiful park this summer."
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