Denver Museum of Nature & Science Will Redevelop City Park Playground

Kim Shively
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science will redevelop a nearby playground in City Park into a sort of new-age play space that will cater to children by combining nature and science, according to the museum and Denver Parks and Recreation.

“The Museum’s mission is to be a catalyst and ignite our community’s passion for nature and science. We are excited to be able to continue that mission in our own backyard of City Park,” says, George Sparks, president and CEO of the museum, in a statement announcing the project.

A master plan of City Park, released in September 2018, laid out guidelines to revamp the 120-year-old "Peoples' Park," including updates to its facilities and access. The small playground in the eastern quadrant of the park was slated for a redesign; however, the master plan didn't include a funding source. Denver Parks and Rec asked the museum if it would lend its fundraising and community-engagement skills to the project.

“We were not expecting to be able to address this play space so soon and in conjunction with the redevelopment of the Dustin Redd Playground on the west side of the park," says Parks and Rec executive director Happy Haynes in the announcement. "Partnering with the Museum allows City Park users to benefit from the opening of two newly redesigned playgrounds within the next few years.”

The City Park Design Guidelines, released in tandem with the master plan, outline five goals that the city should consider to "ensure park character will be preserved and contemporary use addressed through a balanced approach." They include reconnecting the park with the community, preserving the park's historic features while incorporating new elements, following a uniform approach to the redesign project as a whole, improving ecological and environmental functions, and considering the park's usage during construction.

Five years ago, the "City Loop" plan for a massive, "multigenerational play space" was met with major objections from the neighborhood, and ultimately dropped.

Now the park's golf course is in the midst of a controversial two-year reconstruction project that will reorganize the greens and incorporate a detention area for stormwater runoff. The project was the subject of a lawsuit that tried to tie it to the Interstate 70 expansion; a judge ruled in the city's favor in 2017, allowing the stormwater diversion project to move forward. Neighbors and environmentalists remain concerned, however, most recently by the plan to remove some 260 trees from the golf course.

An open house at the museum from 9 to 11 a.m. on February 23 will allow the community to offer input into the future of the playground; find more details here.