Tag Archives: Denver Parks and Recreation

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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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

 

The Denver Green Party decries Hentzell Park land swap transaction

Contact: Andrea Merida, Denver Greens co-chair info@denvergreenparty.org

Denver, CO – The following position statement was unanimously approved by the voting members of the Denver Greens on Sunday, February 16, 2014.

The Denver Greens are alarmed by the precedent presented by the situation regarding a land swap of the open space commonly referred to as Hentzell Park. This open space was named by the City of Denver in 1981 in honor of former Denver city councilman Paul A. Hentzell, and since then, taxpayer resources have been expended for its upkeep, including the installation of signage and maintenance of pathways, just like any other officially-designated Denver park. We are hopeful that the Denver District Court takes up the review of the previous denial of preliminary injunction against the construction currently underway. That court date is scheduled for May 19, 2014.

The Hentzell Park area has a particular historical and environmental significance to the Denver area. It was once a part of the Cherokee Trail that led to the gold rush fields of California and was the site of gold discoveries along Clear Creek, near present-day Denver. It is currently the home of many species of wildlife, including mule deer and red fox, golden eagles and Great Blue herons and many grassland plants native to the Front Range.

As stated within the 10 Key Values of the Green Party of the United States, “We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our communities and our planet.” Therefore, the Denver Greens recognize the immense value of preservation of publicly-used lands like Hentzell Park.

The Denver city charter, Section 2.4.5 – Sale and Leasing of Parks, states in part that, “Without the approval of a majority of those registered electors voting in an election held by the City and County of Denver, no park or portion of any park belonging to the City as of December 31, 1955, shall be sold or leased at any time.”

The Denver Greens recognize that an untenable situation has arisen because the land has been maintained and treated as an official park, even though a formal vote was never taken to recognize it as such. Because of this failure of our city government to properly steward the expenditure of tax dollars via the upkeep of publicly-used land without proper park designation, an unfortunate loophole has been created. This governmental can has been kicked down the road repeatedly, while the land has been targeted for various initiatives, including a water park and as a portion of Kennedy Golf Course.

It is our opinion, however, that this loophole does not excuse the City’s responsibility to cement the public trust by bringing forth the disposition of this land to a vote by the people. We do not support this land swap, and we believe that the will of the people through proper democratic action has been subverted in this transaction.

Our Tenth Key Value, “Future Focus and Sustainability,” states that “(w)e must counterbalance the drive for short-term profits by assuring that economic development, new technologies, and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations who will inherit the results of our actions.” It is clear that many mayoral administrations and city councils have failed to designate the Hentzell Park area as an official park by ordinance. Additionally, there are an additional 60 different public use areas not protected via ordinance, which creates more opportunity for land speculation and possibly even privatization.

The Denver Greens call upon both the Mayor of Denver and the Denver City Council to exercise their fiduciary responsibility as stewards of the public purse and as mandated by the voters of Denver county and immediately fix the designation of the 60 different public areas as official parks via ordinance before the end of the council’s 2014 legislative session.