After a lackluster and sometimes controversial tenure as Manager of Parks and Recreation beginning in 2003, Kim Bailey is resigning effective May 27 to become vice president of Urban Centers for Outward Bound USA in Golden.
I learned the welcome news on Tuesday, April 8, and interestingly enough, I’d been thinking about Bailey earlier in the day while driving home on the 6th Avenue Parkway. As usual, I’d been struck by how bad the trees and shrubs were looking. Many of the flowering bushes were so far gone they’d recently been cut back to the ground, and the drought-stressed evergreens -- some, like the one that’s pictured, nearly one hundred years old -- are in heartbreakingly bad shape, with scorched needles all over them.
It’s not unusual for me to think of Bailey when I make this drive, because I believe she has been the person most responsible for the shabby appearance of the once beautiful Denver Park and Parkway system. I first pointed out the terrible job she was doing at the department’s helm here, and noted it in several subsequent pieces, here, here and here.
Since Mayor John Hickenlooper tapped her for the job, she has followed in the footsteps of her ignoble Wellington Webb-administration predecessor, James Mejia, in neglecting -- and thus damaging -- the city’s green infrastructure. Specifically, the department Bailey ran ignored the water needs of the plants, and this has been especially devastating to the mature specimens, many of which died as a consequence. Some of these trees had stood for generations, and aren’t replaceable for generations to come. As a result, our world-class equity of green spaces, some dating back to the 19th century, is in serious decline.
It was simply a matter of misplaced priorities: Bailey hasn’t had much interest in the parks, parkways, street trees and flower beds -- to the point where the department was excoriated by the City Council last August for the lack of upkeep of the public swards. She did have a great deal of interest in recreation centers, however, and even more so in playgrounds. In fact, it was revealed about a year ago that she’d missed over ten weeks of work because of her doctoral studies at the University of Colorado Denver. Her dissertation had to do with playground studies, an amazing coincidence considering that her department was preparing a city-funded playground master plan at the same time.
When Bailey leaves, Scott Robson, Deputy Manager of Parks and Recreation, will take over as interim manager while the city begins a search for a replacement. Let’s hope the mayor doesn’t pick as badly this time. -- Michael Paglia