Outdoors

Roads in and Around Denver Parks Closed to Cars, Opened to Recreation

On Saturday, April 4, some people in Cheesman Park were adhering to Governor Jared Polis's call to adopt a "strong mask culture."
On Saturday, April 4, some people in Cheesman Park were adhering to Governor Jared Polis's call to adopt a "strong mask culture." Lauren Antonoff
Even amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, being outside is the Colorado way.

That's why Denver's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure is taking steps to accommodate residents' desires for recreation as well as the need for social distancing.

Efforts began with the closure of roads inside 31 Denver area parks, allowing more car-free space for walking, biking, jogging, roller-blading, skateboarding and other outdoor activities.

Following those closures, Denver officials continue to respond to residents' demands for safe spaces in the state's most densely populated neighborhoods.


In a Twitter question-and-answer session with Mayor Michael Hancock on April 3, Denver resident Alejandra Castañeda, @biculturalbrokr, asked:

Q: Mayor, can the City close some streets to car traffic so we (inc. children and older adults) can safely walk, run and bike outside, in our neighborhoods, while practicing the much needed social distancing proven to help flatten the CO… #AskMayorHancock
Hancock responded:
"The answer is yes, resoundingly yes. We've heard from all of you on Twitter and other forms of social media that this was important. We heard you."
click to enlarge Rollerbladers enjoyed the car-free street at Cheesman Park. - LAUREN ANTONOFF
Rollerbladers enjoyed the car-free street at Cheesman Park.
Lauren Antonoff
So on April 4, Denver's transportation department took action to "really encourage people to get outdoors and feel safe walking and biking and enjoying outdoors with the proper physical distancing," Hancock reported, by closing some city streets to traffic and opening them up for recreational use. On April 9, the city announced an additional four closures.

Here's the full list:

Barnum
Irving Street from Second Avenue to Gill Place

Capitol Hill

East 11th Avenue from Lincoln Street to Humboldt Street

Montbello
Bolling Drive from Chambers Road to Dillon Street

North Capitol Hill and City Park West

East 16th Avenue from Lincoln Street to City Park Esplanade

Sloan's Lake
Bryon Place from Zenobia Street to Stuart Street
Stuart Street from 24th Avenue to 21st Avenue

Washington Park and Speer
Marion Parkway from Virginia Avenue to Downing Street and Bayaud Avenue
Bayaud Avenue from Sherman Street to Downing Street

"We'll be looking for additional roads and streets that we can close in the city of Denver," Hancock adds. (More information will be posted on denvergov.org as it becomes available.)

Even though the streets are closed to traffic, gatherings, picnics, furniture and play equipment are off-limits, and police are monitoring the areas.

click to enlarge On Saturday, April 4, this man bicycled on the closed section of 11th Avenue, stretching from Lincoln Street to Humboldt Street. - LAUREN ANTONOFF
On Saturday, April 4, this man bicycled on the closed section of 11th Avenue, stretching from Lincoln Street to Humboldt Street.
Lauren Antonoff
The movement to shut streets inside (and perhaps outside) city parks isn't a new idea.

David Mintzer, a recreation activist and resident of the Cheesman Park area, has been pursuing closures since long before coronavirus changed the city's recreation habits. "I've been pushing to get some more space," he says. "Then, when this whole social distancing thing came up, there just really didn't seem to be a safe space outside that gave everyone enough room to be out in the park."

He commends the city's current road closures.

"But there's always been kind of a conflict," he notes. "A lot of folks in the neighborhood worry that if [internal park] roads are [permanently] closed, people will park on residential streets, or people will cut through the neighborhood and cause more traffic. That's always been the debate.

"We really feel pretty strongly that parks should be a place that people can recreate, run, bike, not have to worry about either being hit by cars, or the noise and the pollution from cars," he continues. "So that's something we're hoping the city can maintain once this is all behind us."

Mintzer has even started a petition to "Make Denver Park Roads Permanently Car Free," which his daughters are now advertising with a hand-drawn banner posted on a barricade in Cheesman Park.

click to enlarge Mintzer's daughters made this banner and posted it on a barricade at Cheesman Park. - DAVID MINTZER
Mintzer's daughters made this banner and posted it on a barricade at Cheesman Park.
David Mintzer
Mintzer understands his neighbors' concerns regarding possible permanent closure of park roads, but argues that Denver "just passed a tax giving the city $45 million a year for parks. So they should really make sure they use that money for nice, quality parks within walking distance of every neighborhood. Then less people will feel the need to get in their car and drive to another park."

In the meantime, he and his family have been enjoying this newfound space for which they've been advocating.

"Since they did close the road to cars in Cheesman Park, it feels so much more spacious and safe," he says. "I've been going on runs, I've been biking around the park with my kids, I've been going for walks with the girls' grandmother. It just feels so much more safe and pleasant to be in the park without cars."

Update:
This story was updated on April 10 to include new street closures.
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Lauren Antonoff is a Denver native dedicated to telling Colorado stories. She loves all things multi-media, and can often be found tinkering in digital collage. She joined the Westword team in 2019, where she serves as the Audience Engagement Editor — connecting people, ideas, and the stories that matter.
Contact: Lauren Antonoff