Tag Archives: Hampden Heights North Park

School sits on former open space that activists want back — eventually

Attorney and parks advocates press case at Court of Appeals to overturn land swap involving Hampden Heights Open Space

By Jon Murray
The Denver Post

Two years after the Denver City Council cleared the way for a controversial land swap, children filed last month into a new elementary school built on former city-owned open space near Cherry Creek Reservoir.

But the Joe Shoemaker School’s opening hasn’t ended a legal fight by still-simmering Denver parks advocates over what they saw as an illegal giveaway of valuable park land, a charge disputed by city officials.

Dozens of the lawsuit’s supporters packed a Colorado Court of Appeals courtroom this month as their lawyer, who is appealing an earlier loss in Denver District Court, again pressed to return the land to city ownership.

That prospect has been complicated, of course, by Denver Public Schools’ construction of the building on the 11½-acre city parcel on Havana Street, which was swapped by the city for a central Denver former DPS administration building that soon will become a domestic violence resource center.

The opponents admit that if they prevail, their best-case scenario would be to win a court order for the land to be returned as city park land — but only decades from now, once the new school has outlived its usefulness.

Attorney John Case, who lives nearby, and other park advocates say they’re still fighting to protect more than just one park.

READ MORE HERE

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Now New York Has Their Own Version!

Sound familiar?What makes a park a park?
Though the plan is overwhelmingly opposed by NYU’s faculty and neighbors, the city, under Mayor Bloomberg, finally blessed it, handing the university four strips of public parkland for its private use, ostensibly for academic purposes.
The plan’s opponents sued the city, since, under an age-old legal code called the Public Trust Doctrine, parkland may not be “alienated” — meaning, turned into something else — without explicit approval by the state legislature, approval NYU had not obtained. The university and the city skirted that requirement by claiming that those parks are not in fact parks, since they were never formally “mapped” as such (i.e., not transferred officially to the Parks Department).

The Time to Save Our NYC Parks Is Now

By Mark Ruffelo

Huffington Post June 4, 2015

What makes a park a park?

Ordinarily, that might be a question for a New York dinner party. Today, it is an urgent legal question before the New York Court of Appeals. For our state’s highest court will either save our city parks, by reaffirming a time-honored civic principle, or they will throw it out, and so allow the city to seize countless open spaces long enjoyed as public parks, and hand them over to private developers, without approval from the state Legislature.

Such is the looming consequence of New York University’s plan to bulk up its Greenwich Village presence with four huge towers — roughly 2 million square feet of commercial real estate — crammed onto the two residential blocks just south of Washington Square.

Though the plan is overwhelmingly opposed by NYU’s faculty and neighbors, the city, under Mayor Bloomberg, finally blessed it, handing the university four strips of public parkland for its private use, ostensibly for academic purposes.

Read the entire article here

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.