Red Rocks Is (Almost) a National Historic Landmark

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In all likelihood, Red Rocks will soon be a National Historic Landmark. That would be particularly gratifying for the group Friends of Red Rocks., which has been trying to get the designation for the park since 1999. “People thought it was a historic landmark already because it has been treated that way,” says Russ Alaimo, a spokesman for the group.

Their efforts took a huge step forward during a two-day meeting last week in Washington, D.C., when a committee of the National Park System Advisory Board made the decision to approve the application. Three people from the area traveled to DC to participate: Christina Dickinson of the National Park Service, Tad Bowman from the City of Denver, and Cy Davis from Friends of Red Rocks.

And despite the unanimous approval of the committee, the park isn't an official landmark yet. There are a few more crucial steps left: A meeting has been scheduled for May and, from there, the request will be sent to the Secretary of Interior for final approval. 

If Red Rocks becomes an official National Landmark, it will be protected from any federal interventions, such as strip mining or the building of highways. More sources of funding and grants will also become available. Alaimo says this is particularly attractive because it could mean improved community access and studies for Mount Morrison Civilian Conservation Corps Camp.

Alaimo says many people he speaks to are shocked that Red Rocks is not yet a landmark, and he attributes that shock to the amount of respect and honor the park has earned over the last hundred years. “It’s a place that has always been treated with respect and understanding of its uniqueness. If you stand in the center of that amphitheater, other than a few minor changes like the growth of trees, that amphitheater is pretty much the way it was in 1941 [the year that it officially opened.]” Most historic landmarks, he argues, can't make that claim.

Red Rocks would be Denver’s second national historic landmark. The first, Civic Center Park,  was approved last January.  

Friends of Red Rocks started as an advocacy group in 1999 when they became concerned about the “historical and psychical integrity of the amphitheater.” Within a year of their formation they expanded their concern to include the park, Trading Post, and the Mount Morrison CCC Camp District. Besides all the geographical and national uniqueness, the inner governmental cooperation and collaboration required to keep the park going is why it has been nominated.

“It could have been a slam dunk if we just went for the amphitheater,” says Alaimo. But he and the group wanted the entire park as part of the landmark nomination. The CCC Camp, Trading Post, and the Amphitheater were already included on a list of National Historic Places, which is a pre-requisite for any area applying to be a National Landmark.  

Red Rocks is owned by the city and county of Denver though it resides in Jefferson County. It was built with assistance from the national parks Service and the WBA Civilian Conservation Core Project, with local architects involved in doing the final design aspects. The amphitheater is managed by Arts and Venue, while Parks and Recreation manages the park.

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