Category Archives: Hentzell Park Update

Supreme Court denies our Petition for Review

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:

  1. 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.
  1. Citizens cannot rely on state courts to hold Denver officials accountable.
  1. 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 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?

John Case


Wrongful Death | Serious Injuries

Civil Trials | Appeals

With partners expert in Probate | Estate Planning | Real Estate | Business & Corporate | Divorce & Family

1660 S. Albion Street, Suite 1100, Denver, Colorado 80222



Friends of Denver Parks file petition for certiorari in the Colorado Supreme Court on October 28, 2015 of Denver Parks, Steve Waldstein and Zelda Hawkins filed their petition for certiorari in the Colorado Supreme Court on October 28, 2015. The basis for the petition is that the Colorado Court of Appeals failed to follow Colorado Supreme Court precedent when it affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of our case without allowing witnesses to testify in a public trial.

2015-1028 Petition for Writ of Certiorari.FINAL

2015-1028 Appendices to Cert Petition pt 1

2015-1028 Appendices to Cert Petition pt 2

2015-1028 Appendices to Cert Petition pt 3

The witnesses, which include not only private citizens, but also former city officials and employees, would have testified that Hampden Heights North Parks was designated with other parks by the Charter amendment in 1956, and was confirmed as a park with the 1996 Charter amendment.

Even though DPS has built a school in what used to be a park and natural area, petitioners are pressing the case forward so that, when the school is flooded by Cherry Creek or outlives its useful life after 40 years, the land can be returned to its rightful status as a public park, held in perpetuity for the citizens of Denver.

Thanks to all our friends for their continuing support.

John Case


Wrongful Death | Serious Injuries

Civil Trials | Appeals

With partners expert in Probate | Estate Planning | Real Estate | Business & Corporate | Divorce & Family

1660 S. Albion Street, Suite 1100, Denver, Colorado 80222

Phone|303-757-8300     Fax|303-753-0444   Web|

Joe Shoemaker School Dedicated Today on Former Open-Space Site

 Mayor Michael B. Hancock tours the new school.


Think the wheels of justice turn slowly? At 10 a.m. today, Denver Public Schools will dedicate the Joe Shoemaker School, an elementary school that opened last month as the Hampden Heights Expeditionary School at 3333 South Havana Street, at the edge of southeast Denver. Meanwhile, a request to return nine acres of land beneath that school to the City of Denver is still in the Court of Appeals.

Construction of the school started in January 2014 on property that that had been part of the Hampden Heights Open Space, next to Paul A. Hentzell Park. That land was swapped by Denver with DPS in a complicated 2013 deal that also involved DPS turning over a building at 1330 Fox Street, which is becoming the Rose Andom domestic-violence resource center. Although a majority of the members of a parks advisory board had opposed the move, the city’s then parks-director overrode that vote, paving the way for Denver City Council to approve the deal in April 2013.

Opponents of the deal claimed that the Hampden Heights property was officially a park, having been used as open space since before 1956, and so under the city charter could not be released byDenver without an election; they organized as Friends of Denver Parks to fight the action in court.

After a loss in Denver District Court where the judge upheld the “less than transparent land swap,” the group took its case to the Colorado Court of Appeals, where it had had a date on September 1. Given that the school was already up and running, Chief Appeals Judge Alan Loeb asked John Case, attorney for Friends of Denver Parks and a resident of the area, what the group wanted: “This isn’t about today or tomorrow — it’s about forty years from now, when parks land is even more scarce for an increasing population than it is today,” Case told the judge.

Joe Shoemaker certainly recognized how important parks land was to the population — and ensured that Denver had plenty to enjoy. A legislator who founded the Greenway Foundation in 1974, he pushed to transform the South Platte River from the stinking mess it had become to a true amenity for Denver and surrounding areas.

Shoemaker, a longtime supporter of the education as well as the environment, passed away in 2012…before the more recent stink over the property transfer that made the Joe Shoemaker School possible.