March 30th, 2021 | Issue 001: In Our Parks Newsletter
The Denver Park Trust, in partnership with Denver Parks and Recreation and Game Plan for a Healthy City, is bringing you a monthly newsletter featuring stories, surveys, events and more in and about Denver’s parks.
Discover your parks.
Denver’s First Park: Mestizo-Curtis
The story of Mestizo-Curtis Park begins in an era of explosive population growth and expanding transportation options. No, not during the energy-fed boom of the 1970’s or our recent influx of new residents—but in the late 1800’s when the Denver population went from 4,700 to slightly more that 100,000 in just over two decades, and the Denver Horse Railroad Company built the first transit line running down Champa St. from Auraria to the nascent suburb of Curtis Park.
In 1868, a nine acre plot of land near the transit stop was donated by Francis Case and Frederick Ebert for use as a public park. Named for Samuel Curtis, one of Denver’s founding fathers, the park, which started as open space, has seen many changes over the years, including construction of a playground in 1905 and the addition of two blocks of additional park space a year later. In 1936 a swimming pool was added. The 1950’s saw many of the aging gardens and trees replaced, and an open lawn and tennis courts installed.
In the 1980’s, after several decades of decline, the park’s playground and pool were upgraded, the Eyes on the Park mural by local artist Emanuel Martinez was installed and mestizo, meaning a mix of cultures and ethnicities, was added to the park’s name reflecting the diversity of the ever changing Curtis Park community.
Recently, community groups, the Trust for Public Land and Denver Parks and Recreation teamed up to add a custom-designed playground and exercise area. Now, more than 8,000 residents who live within a ten minute walk of Mestizo-Curtis Park have one more reason to visit, play, recreate and relax in Denver’s oldest park.
Explore Colorado Nature as a Pathway to Health
By Happy Haynes, Executive Director of Denver Parks and Recreation
While the colder winter months and a global pandemic have increased the amount of time Coloradans are spending at home and caused a heightened state of anxiety for so many, reaping the health benefits of being outside is more important than ever. It has been proven time and again that there is a positive connection between being outdoors in nature and improved physical and psychological well-being.
According to an article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to green space, even in a limited setting like an urban residential city street is just as beneficial for health as visiting a natural setting or large public park. This is further supported by research that has shown that spending even 20 minutes in a park can make people happier, reduce stress and boost social connections. So, regardless of the outdoor venue, anytime spent outside, whether exercising or not, can provide some benefit to emotional, physical and mental health.
Perhaps one silver lining from the COVID-19 era is that more Denver residents will continue to take advantage of the outdoors given the limitations put on so many other activities and the increased stress the pandemic has caused. People need an outlet and what better or easier way to accomplish this than to spend time outdoors. It not only brings vast health benefits, but it also supports a connection to others and to nature. These benefits and the connections we make are particularly important as we meet the challenges of our new normal in a post-pandemic world.
Denver residents can take advantage of the sunny days and the many welcoming, diverse outdoor spaces in our community, to get a mental and physical health boost from being outdoors. Denver and the surrounding areas have a plethora of public parks, walking trails, green spaces and mountain parks to enjoy. Find your local park or explore outdoor spaces beyond your community to get outside to go for a walk, play catch, ride your bike, visit a playground or spend time with family or friends. Even if you just walk outside your door to look at the trees or walk around the block and take time to sit on a bench, remember that being outside might just put a smile on your face.
Five Great Activities to do in Denver Parks
While spring days in Colorado have been known to go from blizzard conditions to bluebird days, our parks are accommodating regardless of weather conditions. Here are five fun activities you can do in Denver parks (almost) any day.
Horseshoe Pit at Rocky Mountain Lake Park
Any day, come snow or shine, is a beautiful day at Rocky Mountain Lake Park. This 61-acre park in northwest Denver has a lakeside trail, basketball courts, and a playground. When the ground is snow and ice free you’ll find a horseshoe pit ready for play. Just bring your own horseshoes, and friendly competitive spirit. Want some tips on how to up your horseshoe game? Here’s a how-to for you to peruse.
Bike or Sled at Ruby Hill Park
Ruby Hill Park is one of the highest points in Denver at 5,390 feet above sea level, and offers brilliant views of the Mile High City. In addition to the view, Ruby Hill Park has quite a few unique amenities from a ski, sled, and snowboard course during the winter (complete with artificial snow if needed), to a bike skills course and outdoor concert venue during the summer.
Night Golf at Harvard Gulch
Although Night Golf is currently on hiatus due to Covid-19, it’s worth remembering for when the world reopens. Harvard Gulch Golf Course, nestled on the east side of Harvard Gulch Park, is a perfect course for golfing novices and regulars alike. During the day, this course is a great way to practice your swing and enjoy the sun. At night, the holes and golf balls glow in the dark, making for a perfect summer sundown.
Bike or Peddle boat at Washington Park
Washington Park is a local favorite—from surprising wildlife (you may even spot a bald eagle) to unique experiences, there’s really no such thing as a bad day at this park. For something a little out of the ordinary, check out Wheel Fun Rentals in the park, where you can try your hand at peddle boating, or four-person bike riding.
Picnic at the Park
What’s a list of park activities without mention of a picnic? With a picnic basket in tow take a midday lunch break, or watch the sunset in any one of Denver’s parks.
We’d love to hear about your favorite park activities. Comment below, or find us on any of the social media sites @denverparktrust.
Game Plan for a Healthy City Prioritizes Equity, Community Engagement and Access for Denver Area Residents
The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused so much uncertainty and upheaval to our everyday lives. Now more than ever with the increased amount of time Coloradans are spending at home and the economic and societal impacts the pandemic has had on our communities – our parks and outdoor spaces are fundamental not only to our health and wellness, but also to the future and resiliency of our city.
Denver’s Park and Recreation (DPR) System is vast, diverse and one of the greatest benefits about living in the Mile-High City. Denver has more than 250 parks within the city limits spanning across 6,000 acres of urban parkland and 760 acres of open space, plus 14,000 acres of parks in the nearby mountains. It is also home to 30 recreation centers, 31 swimming pools, seven golf courses and more than 309 recreational fields and athletic parks, all of which offer something for every type of visitor. While many of these are currently closed or operating under COVID-19 restrictions, there are many safe ways to explore the parks and open spaces that our city park system offers.
When Denver residents voted for the greening of our city in 2018, they prioritized our parks and recreation facilities and gave a thumbs-up to use voter-approved funds to create, maintain and improve the gathering places that foster healthy lifestyles and ensure our communities continue to thrive for generations to come. Game Plan for a Healthy City is DPR’s vision for creating parks, gathering places and activities in every neighborhood that are easily accessible, well-maintained and equitable.
“Given Denver’s rapid growth, this allows us focus on setting strategies for park, facility and program expansion, while aiming to provide access to a park or open space within 10 minutes of every resident’s home or workplace,” said Happy Haynes, executive director, DPR. “During these challenging times, our Denver parks have given residents a place to go, a place to help us stay healthy – in body, mind and spirit. They have been an outlet, a refuge and a space that grounds us and keeps us striving for better days.”
The plan aims to preserve our city’s history and culture while providing outdoor spaces, and programs that support invaluable resources such as urban parks, mountain parks and recreation facilities for all people to enjoy the outdoors and our diverse culture and history. This includes improving Denver’s parkways and trails, expanding the urban tree canopy throughout the city, developing and diversifying recreational programming that meets the needs of all people and creating new design elements in parks such as ADA-compliant play equipment, nature play areas, public art, and more native/natural landscapes. Recent examples include:
•The opening of Arkins Park, a new 3.5-acre park, located along the South Platte River.
•The revamping of Paco Sanchez Park, a 30-acre park, just west of Federal Boulevard and south of Colfax Avenue combining the best of play, adventure and outdoor fun.
•A partnership with allied city agency, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) resulted in a new bike course in Montbello.
•A Denver Parks and Recreation initiative to proactively protect against Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) through the “Be a Smart Ash” program that has removed ash trees to slow the progress of the infestation, replaced lost trees with resistant varieties, and saved uninfected trees with chemical treatments. In 2019, over 4,750 ash trees in parks, parkways and public right-of-way were treated for EAB, and more than 3,850 new disease-resistant trees were planted.
Each neighborhood in Denver will benefit from Game Plan for a Healthy City in its own unique way. At the core, is a priority to close current service gaps by providing greater access to our urban parks, mountain parks and recreational programming for every single community member. For more information on Game Plan for a Healthy City, visit here.
Progress at St. Charles Place Park
We’re very excited to share that construction has officially begun at St. Charles Place Park! All work is scheduled to be completed by July 1, 2021.
In mid-January, Western State Reclamation, a contractor hired by Denver Parks and Recreation, began work on the final phase of construction at the park. Their work involves installation of a natural playground and final landscaping.
St. Charles Place Park was the Denver Park Trust’s first project, and thanks to generous support from The VF Foundation, The Colorado Health Foundation, Collegiate Peaks Bank RiNo and the Colorado Parks Foundation, the Denver Park Trust was able to raise the final $150,000 to complete the $1.5 million project and help recreate an active, public green space for the residents of the Cole neighborhood.
The reimaging of St. Charles Place Park was headed up by the Five Points Youth Ambassadors (formerly the St. Charles Ambassadors) and we have been fortunate to work in partnership with these amazing community leaders.
Also in this edition…
Explore Denver Parks Digitally
Denver has over 250 parks within its city limits, all of which are managed and maintained by Denver Parks and Recreation. Each park offers something different: from pickle ball courts to river trails—there’s a wide variety of park amenities you may not even know about. Denver Parks and Recreation’s interactive park map lets you search for specific park amenities like skate parks, sand volleyball courts, rec centers, swimming pools and more, and shows you every Denver park that matches your search criteria. This is a great way to explore parks you may be unfamiliar with. Give it a try with the button below
Changes are coming to Madam C.J. Walker Park
The Denver Park Trust and The Madam C.J. Walker Park Coalition are working to repair and improve the interpretive signs at Madam C.J. Walker Park. The signs, currently in disrepair, remind Whittier residents and visitors of the important and lasting legacy of a Denver icon, and recognized figure in American history.
Tell us about your neighborhood parks and recreation experience!
Denver Parks and Recreation would like to hear your thoughts and opinions on how you engage with your local parks and recreation centers. Whether you are enjoying an outdoors, socially distanced family birthday celebration, a live Zoom fitness class or an early morning walk on one of the urban park trails, we want to hear from you about your favorite experiences. Please take this quick survey and share with us your favorite park, favorite view, or most memorable Denver Parks and Recreation moment.
New York City Mapped All of its Trees and Calculated the Economic Benefits of Every Single One
In 2015, TreesCount! gathered 2,300 volunteers to tour the five boroughs of New York City and gather information about their trees. Data measured the condition of the trees, what care they needed, and how they benefitted the surrounding community.
Introducing the Denver Park Trust Shop
The Denver Park Trust Shop is now officially open. We worked with the Denver Public Library to bring you these exclusive shirts featuring the original maps of some of Denver’s most iconic parks. All purchases go toward improving and growing the Denver park system.