July 29, 2021 | Issue 004: 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.
Celebrating Whittier’s History: A Park Walking Tour
Denver’s Whittier neighborhood was first developed after the Civil War to meet the housing demands of a growing city. The first residents were artisans—carpenters, bricklayers, and metalworkers. Black families began moving to the neighborhood more than one hundred years ago, driven by redlining, a practice that restricted housing for minorities to certain neighborhoods, including Whittier and neighboring San Rafael and Five Points.
Today, Whittier’s history is on display in the fine architectural details of its brick homes and in five neighborhood parks—George Morrison, Sr. Park, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Park, Frederick Douglass Park, Fuller Park, and Madam C.J. Walker Park—four of which are named in honor of prominent Black professionals, some with connections to Denver.
This tour is an easy 1.2 mile loop through the Whitter neighborhood and includes a stop at the five historic parks. Lace up those walking shoes and have fun!
George Morrison, Sr. Park – 3170 N. Gilpin
A good starting point for the tour is at the center of Morrison Park, where an interpretive sign will tell you the story of George Morrison, Sr., a world class musician who grew up in Boulder and began his music career playing in mining camps west of the city.
That auspicious start was followed by education at Chicago’s Columbia Conservatory of Music, a stint as the leader of the house band at Denver’s Albany Hotel, a recording contract with Columbia Records (the first ever for a black musician), and a tour of Europe where his band played a command performance for the King and Queen of England. In Morrison’s later years he helped advance the careers of numerous young black musicians, played violin at Shorter AME church, and volunteered in Denver Public Schools.
From your starting spot head west along the walking path, crossing Franklin St., where, to the right across MLK Blvd., you’ll see the historic Cole Junior High School building that now houses several different middle and high schools. At the end of the park, turn left and walk two blocks south on Lafayette Street to Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Park.
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Park – 3000 N. Lafayette St.
When you arrive at Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Park, the first thing you’ll notice is that the park straddles Lafayette Street reducing automobile traffic and providing an ideal environment for families to picnic or enjoy the playground and nearby basketball courts.
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Park was established in 1974 and is named for the first doctor to perform open heart surgery. Dr. Williams graduated from Chicago Medical School in 1883 and began practicing medicine at a time when there were only three other Black physicians in Chicago. In 1891 he founded Provident Hospital, a medical facility that became one of the leading hospitals in the country and boasted an interracial staff. Two years later Dr. Williams repaired a tear in the lining of James Cornish’s heart, a procedure that saved Cornish’s life and earned Dr. Daniel Hale Williams a place in history.
From here, wander east along 30th Ave. After two short blocks you’ll arrive at Frederick Douglass Park, a tiny pocket park in the heart of the Whittier neighborhood.
Frederick Douglass Park – 3000 N. Franklin St.
While the park is small in stature, the namesake looms large, but not Fredrick Douglass, the famous abolitionist and author, but his son, Frederick Douglass, Jr., a historical figure in his own right with ties to Denver.
Raised in Rochester, NY, Frederick Douglass, Jr. early adult years were spent recruiting Black troops to fight for the Union in the Civil War. Following the war, he and his brother Lewis moved to Denver and started the city’s first school for Black kids. They also opened a mortuary in Five Points and a restaurant on California St. The Douglass’ actively opposed Colorado statehood until all men were granted the right to vote.
Your tour continues south on Franklin Street for one block to Fuller Park.
Fuller Park – 2901 N. Williams St.
As the largest park in Whittier, covering two full blocks, Fuller Park has amenities for all, including a playground, picnic shelter, a basketball court, and a dog park that was added in 2012.
Fuller Park is also Denver’s second public park founded 11 years after the city’s first, Mestizo-Curtis Park. The park is named for Horace Fuller, an attorney and real estate developer. Fuller donated the land to the city and Whitter residents used it as a park for nearly 120 years before the parcel was officially designated as a park in 2007
After making your way east across the park, turn north on Williams St. for a short walk to 30th Ave. where you’ll turn right and stoll into Madam. C.J. Walker Park.
Madam C.J. Walker Park – 1900 E. 30th Ave.
Originally named Thunderbolt Community Park in recognition of its proximity to Manual High School, the park was renamed in 2001 to honor Madam C.J. Walker.
Madam C.J. Walker was a philanthropist, an entrepreneur, and the first self-made female millionaire, Black or white, in the country. Born Sarah Breedlove to parents who were enslaved at birth, Madam C.J. Walker moved to Denver in 1905 and, with very little capital to start, built a highly successful hair care business. Her status as an entrepreneur and millionaire inspired many and she spent her later years as an active philanthropist, donating to educational and Black charities.
There are three interpretive signs in Madam C.J. Walker Park that tell the story of this extraordinary woman. The signs are in very poor shape, barely readable. Earlier this year Whitter residents came together to form the Madam C.J. Walker Park Coalition to fundraise to restore the sign. The Denver Park Trust is supporting their efforts with a grant. You too can help. Click here for more information on the project.
Your park tour is nearly finished. All that’s left is a two block jaunt north on High St. to the east end of Morrison Park. Head west down the park’s path and your loop is complete.
Critter of the Month: North American Beaver
Beavers are found throughout Denver’s riparian corridors, with populations in nearly all of our rivers, creeks, and gulches.
Beavers by the numbers in 2020:
26 Sites of beaver activity monitored
10 Waterways supporting beaver populations
55 Trees painted to prevent damage
2 Dams breached to mitigate flooding
As ecosystem engineers, the presence of beavers increases the health of riparian habitats, but an also damage park infrastructure and create hazards for park users.
Habitat creation: Wetlands created by beaver dams provide food and shelter for birds, fish, and other wildlife
Biodiversity: Impounded streams show an increase in the diversity of plant species
Water quality: Beaver ponds enhance stream health by lowering water temperatures, increasing nutrient availability, trapping pollutants, and storing food waters
Flooding: Dams can cause streams to flood onto trails and create icy areas in winter
Tree loss: Beavers can take down large, desirable trees and significantly reduce tree cover.
Safety: Partially chewed trees may fall onto trails
DPR’s Beaver Management Guidelines promote coexistence with beaver living in the city by minimizing conflicts while maximizing the health of our urban ecosystem.
Step One: Survey & Map
•The Natural Resources Crew and Mile High Flood District staff monitor waterways and map areas with beaver activity
•Most chew damage occurs in the fall and winter as beavers prepare winter food caches and repair dams
Step Two: Assess & Plan
•Flooding potential and threats to trails and bridges are evaluated at each site
•Trees to be protected are identified—including cottonwoods, peach-leaf willows, and landscaping trees
•Availability of suitable vegetation for beaver use is assessed—including crack willows, Siberian elms, stands of coyote willow
Step Three: Mitigate & Monitor
•Trees are protected with a mixture of sand and paint that beavers do not like to chew
•Trees can also be wrapped with wire cages. Cages must be monitored to ensure they remain secure and do not restrict tree growth
•Flooding can be mitigated by the installation of a Water Flow Device in larger waterways
•In smaller waterways, dams are repeatedly breached to lower water levels and protect trails
Last Resorts: Relocation
•Relocation is not a recommended option as it is difficult, expensive, and often ineffective
•Most conflicts with beaver arise in the fall & winter, but beavers can only be relocated from June 1-September 1 and only with permission from Colorado Parks & Wildlife
•Even if beavers are successfully relocated, the suitable habitat is quickly repopulated with new resident beavers because it is no longer defended
Through proactive management, DPR strives to encourage coexistence and protect our urban wildlife and their habitat while also meeting the needs of our park users.
Help us celebrate our second Birthday!
The Denver Park Trust is turning two on July 31st, and we’re celebrating the only way we know how—by giving back to our local parks. Here’s how you can help ring in our second year:
1. Keep our parks clean: Help keep Denver parks clean and pristine, if you see trash pick it up and throw it away. Just wash your hands afterward, or keep gloves handy if you are planning on doing a deep clean of a Denver Park.
2. Share your park stories: We love hearing about how you are enjoying Denver parks. Share your stories or activities by following us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @denverparktrust
3. Celebrate in style: Every year on our birthday we will be releasing a special Denver Park Trust design. All proceeds from shirts, sweatshirts, or mugs will go back into improving our parks.