Crown Hill Park open-space defenders protest Jefferson County's "nature play" proposal

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Plenty of folks in Colorado like their nature as natural as possible.

So when park officials began pushing for various amenities and improvements at a popular open-space area in Denver's western suburbs -- including close to $200,000 worth of "nature play" installations that look a lot like playgrounds -- the nature lovers pushed back in force.

Turnout at last night's Jefferson County Open Space meeting on the future of Crown Hill Park was so strong that dozens of frustrated citizens were turned away at the door of the cramped Wheat Ridge Active Adult Center, which could safely seat only 190 people. JCOS director Tom Hoby estimated that twenty to thirty people couldn't get in, but later conceded it could have been as many as fifty -- and one grassroots activist estimates the number as closer to 150.

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Tom Hoby.
Inside, Hoby got an earful about the need to preserve the charms of Crown Hill, a wildlife haven just east of Kipling that attracts up to 400,000 visitors a year. Hoby's team has been in the process of fixing trails, upgrading the beleaguered restrooms and scrapping splinter-inflicting fitness stations in the park that date back thirty years. But JCOS also devised plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the park more family-oriented, including adding a sheltered picnic area and "nature play" areas designed to get kids off the sofa and more engaged in the outdoors.

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Crown Hill Park.
Opponents say the proposed amenities were set in motion with little public input and would seriously alter the character of Crown Hill, which hosts a hundred species of migratory birds and contains a wetlands north of its lake.

"I'm not sure why they are trying to urbanize the park," says Lakewood resident Roberta Garrett. "People like it the way it is. You can see wildlife in the middle of a city."

Garrett has been visiting Crown Hill for 23 years. She's watched, transfixed, as a bald eagle feasted on a fish on an icy day while crows hovered below, waiting for scraps. She doesn't see how an influx of amenities will make anything better for the birds and animals. "I never thought I'd have to protect open space from Open Space," says Garrett, who runs one of several websites that have sprung up protesting the plan. "There's no transparency. This is not what we voted for."

Continue for more about last night's Crown Hill meeting.


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3 comments
danielbooneski
danielbooneski

Denver Rabble- you are right on with your comments. 

DenverRabble
DenverRabble

I hate to say it, but this does sound like older people afraid that children will be allowed to mingle with them. From what I've read here and elsewhere (I live in Denver, not JeffCo),  I've gathered that this park is open, but it is anything but NATURAL. It's heavily used by people and their horses and dogs, complete with the dog poop problem we have everywhere now. It has an artificial lake with wetlands fed by a well. The trees are invasive species not native to Colorado. Even native trees aren't part of the pre-human environment of metro Denver, except around the streams. And coyotes and foxes? They do very well all over Denver. I see foxes at Cheesman Park and the Botanic Gardens. Coyotes are also everywhere, eating unfortunate cats  who would be eating birds if the coyotes didn't get them. Coyotes and foxes are interesting animals, but by no means will their numbers be significantly reduced by a pergola with canopy next to an existing parking lot or a naturalistic playground. The important wetlands are already fenced off several months out of the year and will not be altered in these proposals.

The question is not how to preserve a long-vanished "nature" at Crown Hill. The question is whether this already heavily used park could better serve its community. Right now, a portion of the community believes that constructing facilities to attract "others" into the park will degrade it. One comment on the Jeffco Open Space site worried that the nature play area would be attractive to children living in a "low-income" apartment building in the area. I wonder if that could really be the heart of the opposition: people worried that the "wrong sort" of people will want to use "their" park.

"Heaven forfend that the peace and quiet of the lake be spoilt by the malodorous and noisy rabble! Why, those ruffians might not even own any property!" At least, I think that might be what the Dowager Countess would say.

danielbooneski
danielbooneski

Amazing how distorted these issues become.  My understanding of the low-key nature play area is that it's primary goal is help connect kids to nature- something sorely needed. Crown Hill Park is a great urban park, but it is a very far cry from a pristine "wildlife" area.  If people are really concerned about impact on wildlife, then stop using the park and stop walking the tens of thousands of dogs in the park.  A few children playing in the park (God forbid!!) are not going to affect wildlife.  This is a classic case of "Not in my backyard" and a very "grey"  crowd yelling about keeping them damn kids out of my park. 

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