Dear Friends of Denver Parks,
The appeal of Friends of Denver Parks, Steve Waldstein, and Zelda Hawkins to require a vote of the people before trading away park land ended on April 25. The Supreme Court denied our Petition for Review. The Judgment of the Denver District Court is now final. Joe Shoemaker Elementary School has been built on 11 acres of was once designated as natural area park land.
I wish to thank my clients Steve Waldstein and Zelda Hawkins, and the board members of Friends of Denver Parks (Renee Lewis, Dave Hill, Shawn Smith and Judy Case); Maggie Price, who created and maintains our web site; the witnesses who rode horses and enjoyed Hampden Heights North Park from 1938 through 2013, who testified in court, signed affidavits, and gave depositions; Larry Ambrose and members of INC; our friends in the media; and the hundreds of volunteers who circulated petitions and donors who contributed money to help defray deposition costs and filing fees.
For three years I was honored to represent ordinary citizens in a just cause against city government. I learned sobering lessons, among them:
- Denver city officials are committed to high density development that will cause ever increasing stress on our existing parks, neighborhoods, roads, and way of life.
- Citizens cannot rely on state courts to hold Denver officials accountable.
- Recalling elected officials may be the only way to stop corrupt government practices.
Although the city and DPS prevailed in the lawsuit, Mother Nature someday may have the last word. Cherry Creek Dam is a 141 foot high earth dam designed to collect water from the Cherry Creek basin and prevent downstream flooding. The dam retains water in the reservoir; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases water downstream into Cherry Creek through three tubes at the base of the dam. In the event of a severe thunderstorm, the Corps must release enough water through the discharge tubes to prevent the reservoir water level from rising too fast. If the reservoir water level rises so fast that water overtops the dam, the water will wash away the dirt on the back side of the dam, and the dam will undergo catastrophic failure.
When they built the new school, city and DPS officials assumed that flow through Cherry Creek would never exceed 5,000 cubic feet per second. This assumption may be false. The elevation of the school foundation is one foot (12 inches) higher than the assumed maximum flow of 5,000 cubic feet per second. The Corps of Engineers currently is proposing to release up to 13,300 cubic feet per second through the discharge tubes in the event of a severe thunderstorm. A summary of the study is available at http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/WaterInformation/WaterControl/CherryCreekWCPM.aspx. If the Corps releases 13,300 cubic feet per second of water into Cherry Creek during a severe thunderstorm, Joe Shoemaker Elementary School probably will be flooded. At this time there is no published engineering study that models what will happen to the school.
If the school is damaged by floodwater, would it make sense for DPS to sell the land back to Denver for use as a park?
EVANS CASE, LLP
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