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