Brief Filed With Colorado Court of Appeals on February 4, 2015

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your continuing support of Friends of Denver Parks and efforts to protect open space in Denver.

Attached is a copy of the brief that Evans Case LLP filed for plaintiffs-appellants in the Colorado Court of Appeals on February 4, 2015.  We are asking the court to reverse the decision of Judge Stern so that, in accordance with Charter Section 2.4.5, the people of Denver may vote on the issue of whether 11 acres of park land should be traded to DPS for use as a school.  We filed a lis pendens on the property in 2013 before the City conveyed it to DPS, so our interests are protected until all appeals are exhausted.

If we are successful, there are a number of possibilities that may come into play.  One, there could be a vote of the people.  Two, could be an agreement reached between the plaintiffs and the city and DPS to eventually restore the 11 acres to its original protected park-natural area status after the useful life of the school expires – say in 15 years, or even forty years, as the original contract between the city and DPS contemplated.

Another factor may be potential danger to elementary school children if there is a severe rain event which requires the Corps of Engineers to release a sudden large volume of water from Cherry Creek Reservoir, through the floodgates of the Cherry Creek Dam, into the flood plain where the school is constructed.  This possibility was once considered extremely remote, but in my opinion, a careful reading of the Corps of Engineers 2012-2013 report on front range dams shows that, if a big enough rain storm dumps a sufficient volume of water into the Cherry Creek Reservoir and surrounding drainage basin, flooding of the new school with loss of life may be an actual danger unless the dam is modified or other precautions are initiated.  According to a former engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers whom I consulted with, risk of flooding can be minimized by releasing all of the water in Cherry Creek Reservoir through the floodgates in measured discharge before the rainy season starts, and hope that enough rain will be recovered in the rainy season to re-fill the reservoir. One of the missions of Cherry Creek Reservoir is recreational use. Draining the reservoir in the summer to avoid risk to a school that was unwisely built in the floodplain 50 yards from the creek, would not be popular with the Cherry Creek Yacht Club, jet skiers, water skiers, paddle boaters, swimmers, campers, environmentalists, beach people, or fisherman.

Members of the Friends board of directors who attended the Corps of Engineers presentation on January 24, 2015 were told that the Corps of Engineers has no control over local officials who authorize development in a flood plain.  Because development of real property in a flood plain is a dangerous choice for inhabitants, the Corps of Engineers discourages development, but cannot prevent it.

Once again, thanks to all of you for your hard work and support. J

John Case

EVANS CASE, LLP

 Opening Brief Colorado Court of Appeals Filed Feb 4, 2015

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New Denver school named for senator, conservationist Joe Shoemaker

New Denver school named for senator, conservationist Joe Shoemaker
By Joe Vaccarelli
YourHub Reporter
Posted: 02/24/2015

Joe Shoemaker
Joe Shoemaker (Photo Provided by the Greenway Foundation)

A new school in southeast Denver will bear the name of a former state senator credited with establishing the Auraria Higher Education Campus downtown and spearheading clean-up of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek.

The Denver Public Schools Board of Education approved naming the new Hampden Heights Expeditionary School, 3333 S. Havana St., after Joe Shoemaker, founder of the Greenway Foundation and the Foundation for Colorado State Parks. The school will open for the 2015-16 school year.

Shoemaker died in 2012, but his three sons were on hand at the Feb. 19 meeting for the reading of the proclamation and vote. His daughter was unable to attend.

“We are delighted and pleased,” said son Jeff Shoemaker, the executive director of both the Greenway Foundation and Foundation for Colorado State Parks.

The other finalists for the school name were Herman Motz, a retired educator from the area, and Hampden Heights after the neighborhood.

Shoemaker, a Republican, served in the Colorado Senate from 1962 to 1974, representing the area where the school will sit. He was known as an education advocate and devoted his personal life to enhancing and preserving the city’s waterways such as the South Platte River and Cherry Creek.

“Joe’s contributions to the city of Denver and our waterways was extraordinary,” said Denver school board member Anne Rowe. She represents the area and read the proclamation. “I look forward to opening Joe Shoemaker Elementary in August.”

Jeff Shoemaker said his father fought hard for public school funding, and the new school’s proximity to Cherry Creek makes it even more appropriate.

“It was a great night,” Shoemaker said. Dad “was all over the auditorium last night.”

Ditmer: Don’t mess with Denver parks

From Denver Post By Joanne Ditmer 02/22/2015

http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_27566397/ditmer-its-not-all-about-development

Burns Park in Denver is located in a triangle between South Colorado Boulevard, East Alameda Avenue and Leetsdale Drive.

Burns Park in Denver is located in a triangle between South Colorado Boulevard, East Alameda Avenue and Leetsdale Drive. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

One of the surest ways to earn eternal mistrust in Denver is to mess with our parks. Mayor Michael Hancock found that out in 2012 when he took 10 acres of the Hentzell Park Natural Area in Southeast Denver and gave it to Denver Public Schools to build an elementary school — on a flood plain. The parks advisory board had voted 11-6 against the giveaway. Two mayoral appointees on the board who were among those voting “nay” were replaced by the next meeting. In short order, the city found a way to transfer the land.

Parks got nothing in return, only a lawsuit filed by citizens. But from then on, the department and mayor have been viewed with suspicion, and subjected to complaints about lack of transparency. What else is in the works that we’re not being told?

Our urban parks are essential grace notes to the Queen City of the Plains. Early settlers in 1859 planned parks from the beginning, and we have 240 parks of almost 6,000 acres enriching our neighborhoods. Another 18 mountain parks offer 14,000 acres.

Denver is rated seventh in the nation for the quality of its park system by the Trust for Public Land, a respected national non-profit advocate that helps plan and support parks. But as our land mass and population grows, we must make sure that our park properties do, too. Denver has 6 percent of its land mass in parks; Colorado Springs has 14 percent.

The explosion of massive buildings in Cherry Creek, downtown, and all over the city, and the waves of newcomers make us wary of politicians who see parks as real estate, not as irreplaceable legacies.

Wellington Webb, Denver’s mayor from 1991 to 2003, knew parks were significant city assets, and added 2,350 acres on 15 sites during his tenure. It seems appropriate for a choice park parcel someday to be named in Webb’s honor.

A recent Denver Post article suggested that Burns Park, a 13-acre triangle of open land at Colorado Boulevard and Alameda Avenue, wasn’t earning its keep. It has a half dozen contemporary sculptures, circa 1960s, dozens of geese, an abundance of sunshine, and few human visitors. Some say it should be redesigned to attract people or be sold for development. But with an average of 38,636 vehicles passing by daily, motorists deserve the visual solace of the park. Burns is an oasis of natural open space in a commercial jungle.

Some say the “empty” space behind the Denver Center for the Performing Arts should get a building as well. That’s ignoring that the sweep of lawn is a rare visual grace note for occupants of the 59,738 vehicles passing daily.

The Hentzell parcel was taken supposedly because it was not an “officially” designated park, and thus not protected by Denver’s city charter, which stipulates that no land acquired by the city after Dec. 31, 1955, shall be deemed a “park” unless specifically designated by city ordinance. Perhaps more importantly, the charter says city parks may not be sold or given away without a vote of the people. Since 1936, the city had watered, planned and cared for Hentzell — with tax dollars — but it wasn’t a park?

Only 68 percent of Denver parks were “officially designated” in 2012. The department has raised the count to 83 percent, and plans to have all eligible parks officially designated this year. Very quietly, the Parks Department has begun holding some meetings with park neighbors and neighborhood organizations. Working together on important decisions is much more productive than going into battle.

And, after all, mayors come and go.