This morning, Denver Mayor Bill Vidal stood next to soon-to-be seventh-grader Nasrin Mahamud in a dusty patch of vacant lot next to Nasrin's apartment building in East Colfax. Before a crowd of well-wishers in suit pants and name tags, the two drove ceremonial shovels into the dirt, breaking ground on a new community park and garden created in collaboration with the refugees, like Nasrin, who live in the neighborhood.
"It's important for me, being Denver's first foreign-born mayor, to think about what this signifies," Vidal said. The park, he said, represents "a sense of building something for people so they can recognize this as their home."
His speech was interrupted by the giggles of two little girls who played near his feet, blowing bubbles and chasing them with plastic wands. "What you've done today signifies the best of who we are as a country and as a community," he added.
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The as-yet-unnamed park, which is located at East 13th Avenue and Xenia Street, is scheduled to be completed by November, according to the conservation group Trust for Public Land, who partnered with Denver Parks and Recreation, Councilwoman Marcia Johnson, Mercy Housing, Denver Urban Gardens and others to make the park a reality.
The dirt field where the kids currently play soccer -- "Sometimes, I play soccer with the boys," Nasrin says -- will be replaced by artificial turf. The community garden, which was started eight years ago by the refugees who live in Mercy Housing, including Nasrin's family, will be relocated and expanded. And handsome picnic tables and sitting walls will take the place of the mismatched collection of chairs clustered under the shade of the lot's cottonwood tree. The park will also feature playgrounds and basketball courts.
Page down to see a design of the park, as well as photos from the groundbreaking.
More from our News archives: "Red Fields to Green Fields: Wall St. banker has grand plan to turn abandoned malls into parks."