Hentzell Park flap: Should Denver trade open space for offices?

hentzel park.jpg
Hentzell Park.
Neighbors complain that city officials represented the swap as practically a done deal before any public comment was sought -- and misrepresented what was at stake. Signs announcing the proposal posted in the area proclaimed the amount of land involved was 5.7 acres, not nine. And the website for the future Rose A. Andom Center announced that it had already obtained a lease for the use of the Fox Street building, a bit of news that has since been removed from the site.

Last month, the Parks and Rec advisory board delayed making a recommendation on the "de-designation" process after hearing from citizens that not enough public input had been sought. (Several pages of comments have since poured in.) The board meets tonight to issue its recommendation, but the decision whether to remove the open space designation and commence development rests with Parks and Recreation Laurie Dannemiller and, ultimately, with the city council, which must approve the deal.

Lehmann points out that the city has been adding open space and preserving natural areas from Heron Pond to Montbello and Green Valley Ranch, "but we never hear about that," she says. In exchange for the swap, she's committed to drafting a measure to take the remaining fifteen acres of the Hentzell Natural Area and incorporate them into the existing park for additional protection.

Nancy Stocker, who lives in Lehmann's district and is battling the exchange, counters that the city has only 167.5 acres of officially designated "natural areas," even though Parks and Rec claims thousands of such acres on its website. A surprising amount of Denver's open space and parks isn't officially recognized as parkland by ordinance and could be subject to the same "de-designation" process as the Hentzell parcel, she contends.

"Something's gone wrong with the city's process for protecting natural areas," Stocker says. "The officially designated natural areas are miniscule, and taking this one away is a very bad precedent."

The Denver Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meets at 5:30 p.m. tonight, December 13, in conference room 4F6 in the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building, 201 West Colfax. For additional information, call 720-913-0670.

More from our News archive: "Photos: Union Station is transforming from sleepy train stop to multi-modal hub."

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