Dear Denver: Put your money where your mouth is. After all, your big plans for Denver talk a lot about the need for open space.

Park Hill golf course Screen Shot 2019-11-14 at 10.41.56 AM

This morning, I almost fell out of my chair reading The Denver Post’s editorial, headlined “Denver must protect Park Hill open space.”

This piece came on the heels of an opinion column in the Post by former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, which had the headline “Webb: Park Hill Golf Course land can and must be preserved under new conservation law.”

It’s about time that type of one-two punch is needed, because what has been happening to the golf course is a “muddled mess”  — the best description I’ve heard yet.

As the editorial noted:

“Sometimes no means no, and that should be the case every time there is a request to develop land encumbered by a conservation easement. In this case, the city had the foresight in 1997 to pay the owner of a golf course in north Denver $2 million (about $3.2 million in today’s dollars) for a perpetual conservation easement requiring the land be used as a golf course. At the time, it was a win, win. The owner, Clayton Trust, received needed money to continue its charitable mission of providing educational opportunities for a community that has historically been underserved. And the city received assurances that a 155-acre property would remain open space for the benefit of the public — taxpayer dollars, after all, were used to acquire that protection. The goal now should be to demand that the land either be a golf course or that it be sold to the city to become a regional park.”

And Webb’s column ended with this:

“By preserving this strengthened conservation easement law and the Park Hill Golf Course land with it, we have the power to create a lasting legacy for generations of Denverites. No less than our children’s healthy and vibrant future is at stake. Let Denver breathe.”

After reading both the editorial and the opinion column, I remembered that Blueprint Denver, a supplement to the Comprehensive Plan 2040, was loaded with wording about parks, open spaces, etc., etc. The plans, adopted earlier this year, are full of aspirational ideas – which is great, but it’s time to live up to the plan. After all, the amount of money and time and meetings involved should be more than a pipe dream.

In Blueprint Denver, the Neighborhood Equity Index notes: “Access to parks: percent of living units within ¼ mile (10-minute walk) to a quality park or open space.”  And the “evolving city” section includes this: “As the population increases, so does the need for parks, open space and other quality-of-life amenities. Green infrastructure— including green roofs, trees, rain gardens and bioswales— is important to integrate into development as growth occurs.”

So Denver, listen to former Mayor Webb, and closely read the Post’s editorial. Aspiration only goes so far because, honestly, in this incredible mess, “no means no.”

The links below lead to the editorial and the opinion column, and to stories from several days ago about the most recent golf course news in the Post, Denverite and Westword.

City shells out $6 million to owners of Park Hill golf course

Park Hill Golf Course: Denver agrees to pay developer $6 million settlement, but land’s future still unclear

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