July 27, 2022: In honor of the first Latino and Coloradan to receive the Medal of Honor in World War II, the Villa Park Neighborhood Association, the Denver Park Trust, and nearly 150 residents celebrated Private Joe P. Martinez’s birthday in his namesake park. If he were alive today, Private Martinez would be 102 years old.
Joseph P. Martinez Park is an 11 acre park located in West Denver that sits along Lakewood Gulch, just upstream from Paco Sanchez Park. The City of Denver acquired the land in the early 1950’s and named the park for Private Martinez in 1966.
Long a gathering spot for Villa Park residents, Martinez Park at one time featured an active ballfield, a slide shaped like a sombrero, and a small memorial honoring Private Martinez. Gone are the slide and the memorial and softball and baseball leagues have moved to Barnum Park for games and practices. This, coupled with an aging playground, caught the attention of area residents and Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR).
DPR, with a focus on equity, identified Martinez Park as a park in need of revitalization and began a robust community engagement process led by AnaClaudia Magalhaes, DPR planner, and Meredith Wenskoski with Livable Cities Studio. This effort revealed the local resident’s vision, wants, and desires for enhancements to the park. From that feedback a master plan was developed in January 2021.
For Villa Park residents, including folks who attended the Earth Day Park Cleanup and the recent community gathering to celebrate Private Martinez’s birthday, they’ll be additional opportunities to weigh in on the future of the park in the coming months when DPR host’s another round of community engagement. If you’d like to participate in this process, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the community engagement, a final design for the park will be created. Construction will be done in phases with the Joseph P. Martinez Plaza scheduled to be completed in the first phase, which could begin in 2023. The plaza will feature a lasting tribute or memorial to Private Martinez, giving neighbors and friends one more reason to gather each year in late July as they celebrate a local hero’s birthday.