Tag Archives: Debra Johnson

Friends Of Denver Parks Day In The Colorado Court of Appeals

On September 1, John Case presented oral arguments in front of the Colorado Court of Appeals

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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.

 

 

 

Judge Stern enters judgment for Defendants

Dear Friends,

On Friday May 2 Judge Stern granted judgment for the Defendants City and County of Denver and Denver Public Schools.  A copy of Judge Stern’s Order is attached. 

There will be no jury trial on May 19.  All witnesses are released from their subpoenas. DPS will continue to build the new school in what used to be Hampden Heights North Park.

First, I want to thank everyone who supported the effort to save this beautiful open space park.  Hundreds of people contributed their time, talent, and treasure, and there is not space to personally thank everyone.  I want to specially acknowledge the plaintiffs Steve Waldstein, Zelda Hawkins, and the board members of Friends of Denver Parks, Inc., Renee Lewis, David Hill, Shawn Smith, and Judy Case, who never gave up; Maggie Price, who created and manages the Friends Website; KC Keefer, who donated the film “Hampden Heist;” witnesses Wellington Webb, Susan Barnes-Gelt, John Bennett, Neil Sperandeo, Susan Baird, Jim Kellner, Amy Laugesen, Dave Longbrake, Dawn Mayo, Dave Norden, Joan Biggs, Sandy Dennehy, Charlie Gallagher, Willis Carpenter, and Tom Noel,; my law partners and faithful staff at Benson & Case; Bob and Nancy Stocker, Kathleen Wells, Dave Felice, Brad Cameron, Joe Halpern, Mary Ewing, and all the volunteers who gathered signatures for the referendum petitions that the city refused to count; Larry Ambrose and the dedicated members of INC who supported and honored our efforts; Wendy Warner and Ed Hall, chairpersons of the Denver Republican and Democratic parties, who passed resolutions condemning the city’s actions; Chuck Bonniwell, who provided expert testimony about Denver’s acquisition of land for recreation along Cherry Creek in the 1930’s, and gave our effort media coverage in the Cherry Creek Chronicle; Jennifer Doran and Pam Quigley, who researched and copied newspaper articles about the flood of 1933 and the city’s acquisition of parcels of land along Cherry Creek at the Denver Public Library and Colorado History Museum; Joe Marisco, who spent six days at the clerk and recorder and assessor’s offices in Arapahoe county, copying deeds to parcels of land along Cherry Creek that the city acquired in the 1930’s; Richard Hentzell, Bill Stanfill, Dick Laugesen, Laura and Linda Gravina, and all of the financial donors who so generously provided funds for petitions and court costs.

Second, I am pleased to announce that Friends of Denver Parks will appeal Judge Stern’s decision, because we believe it is an injustice that the people of Denver were not allowed to vote before their park land was taken.  We will post news of the appeal on the website.

Third, in the near future Friends of Denver Parks will launch a ballot initiative to protect all remaining Denver parks from sale. We want to make sure that what happened here does not happen again.

Thanks again to all of you for your generous help and support.

John Case

BENSON & CASE, LLP

Court Document can be found here