This week's cover story, "Parks and Wreck
," looks into a series of evolving controversies over the way Mayor Michael Hancock's administration is managing Denver's park system, from battles over ballfield revenue and use to a lawsuit triggered by trading city-owned open space in the Cherry Creek corridor for an office building. The latest outrage, as some neighborhood activists see it, is a plan to replace a modest playground in City Park with a sprawling $5-million "regional attraction" called City Loop.
An effort to create what planners are calling a unique, multigenerational play space encircling (but not entirely occupying) thirteen acres of the park, City Loop has been in development by Denver Parks and Recreation for almost three years; DPR has posted plenty of information online about the project, including some illustrations of the play clusters and a detailed FAQ section.
But to understand what the project's opponents are objecting to, it's best to visit Stop City Loop, a recently launched website that raises a host of questions about how the planners are going to deal with traffic, parking, security, maintenance issues and more.
The video below, a four-minute broadside prepared by the opposition, makes a case for a smaller project that would update or replace the current Dustin Redd playground, rather than a large-scale "attraction" that would put further strains on the park, bringing an estimated additional thousand visitors a day on top of the thousands patronizing the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
As noted in my feature, DPR officials have responded to the outpouring of criticism by stressing that the project is still undergoing design revisions. It's not a bond project, and there's no vote of the people required for the administration to proceed with its plan, however loopy some may find it. But the latest communique fired off to the opponents hints that the planning team is taking a long hard look at the project and might even pull back for now.
Here's the pertinent details from that e-mail:
While the project design was chosen through a very public process that started more than 18 months ago, it is clear that our outreach requires more work. Denver Parks and Recreation leadership attended a meeting on Friday, December 6th at the Ford-Warren branch of the Denver Public Library, which was attended by many residents from neighborhoods that surround City Park. In that meeting we heard many concerns and received some very good feedback regarding the current City Loop concept.
As such, we wanted to let you know what DPR's next steps are with regard to this project:
* Effective immediately, we have put all fundraising efforts on hold for City Loop. * Our Parks planning and maintenance staff is evaluating all maintenance and renovation needs in City Park and putting a plan in place to address those issues moving forward (this includes general maintenance and other projects such as the renovation of the Sullivan Gateway and other features in the park). * With assistance from Tina Bishop, of Mundus-Bishop Design Inc., the City design team will meet before the end of the year to evaluate the current concept and discuss changes to the overall size and scope of the project to attempt to better integrate the project into the park. (Tina Bishop is a local landscape architect who has worked all over the City and specializes in designing projects specifically to integrate into historical parks and landmarks.) The team will also evaluate other locations around the City to determine if the project, as planned, would have a more appropriate fit elsewhere. * Once those evaluations have been completed and any other potential design concepts are available, Parks and Recreation will hold a community meeting to collect your feedback. We anticipate scheduling that to take place in the early spring (March), but exact timing cannot be determined just yet. * After that meeting, DPR will evaluate the level of support/opposition for the project and determine how/if it will move forward.
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Is there wiggle room in that "how/if it will move forward" construction? Time will tell. Check out the video from Stop City Loop below.
More from our Follow That Story archive circa June: "Hentzell Park: Did Denver officials ignore law in land swap?"