City Park Alliance Meeting Minutes Available Online

In an effort to be more transparent to our stakeholders, we are now posting our quarterly board meeting agendas and notes online.

The meeting minutes and agenda from the August 22, 2014 quarterly board meeting of the City Park Alliance are available online now.   Come follow along to learn what we’re doing to support City Park.

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ChiveFest Update

A public meeting was held on July 30 regarding ChiveFest.  The meeting featured a presentation from Scotty Nichols, owner of All Phases Event Group, LLC, as well as representatives from “The Chive“.  Following the presentation, representatives from Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) were available to answer questions about the ChiveFest event.  DPR staff noted that if ChiveFest met the terms of the events based policy, then they would not discriminate and would issue a permit.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss extra steps that ChiveFest is putting in to place to make the event less impactful on the park and the community.  The presentation which outlines the impacts from ChiveFest provided by Scotty Nichols is attached here.  A community liaison will be available to speak with members of the community with questions/concerns about the event from Wednesday, August 13, through Sunday, August 17 at 303-681-7833.

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City Loop May Be Relocated to Paco Sanchez Park

From the Denver post online: “The design for a nearly $5 million futuristic type of playground was originally planned for a 13-acre piece of City Park. When nearby residents fought the proposal, Denver Parks and Recreation moved on and looked elsewhere. But the project wasn’t bagged entirely and park officials are now looking into building it at Paco Sanchez Park near the intersection of 12th Avenue and Knox Court.”  View the full article from the Denver Post.

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Chive Fest – Appropriate for City Park?

by Greg Davis, City Park Alliance

ChiveFestA music festival in City Park known as Chive Fest is garnering a lot of attention recently. This music festival proposed to take place on August 16th will host 7,500 people in an all-day event on the East Meadow of City Park.

Prior to the permits office approving the permit, City Park Friends and Neighbors urged City Park Alliance to sign a letter to the mayor opposing this event.  This letter strongly voices disapproval for the event based on concerns such as parking and noise.  City Park Alliance elected not to sign this letter and not to specifically oppose Chive Fest as the process is within the scope of the Admission Based Events Policy approved by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board in 2010.  This policy gives the Manager of Denver Parks and Recreation authority to approve admission based events in City Park, Civic Center Park, Skyline Park, Central Park-Stapleton, Parkfield Park, and Ruby Hill Park.

We at City Park Alliance would like to like be proactive regarding the current and future implementation of the permitting policy for ticketed events at City Park.  Please consider attending a meeting with representatives from the City of Denver and the event producers of Chive Fest in the VIP room of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on Wednesday, July 30th from 6-7pm.

We also need the views presented by City Park Alliance to reflect all park users and not a vocal minority.  Please provide your thoughts using the following polls.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mile High Loop Running Trail Improvements

by Mike Fernandez, City Park Alliance

City Park Alliance partners with Denver Parks and Recreation on improvements as the trail is about to reopen.

On July 11, 2014, members of the City Park Alliance (CPA) board of directors met with City Park officials, to assess the trail and identify opportunities for CPA to support Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) efforts to restore, maintain, and improve the 5 kilometer running trail that winds its way through the environs of City Park.

CPA will put out a call for volunteers to join in trail work and discussions about trail enhancements, likely to take place in the fall.

loop_markerDuring the meeting at the park, CPA learned that there was no budget for maintenance included when the trail was constructed and that replacement of trail markers, destroyed by vandals, with like posts will cost about $1,700 each. Lessons learned: Replacing way-finding signage with markers that are more easily replaced is the way forward for this City Park feature.

 

Loop_fenceMore Good News: The orange fences adjacent to the Mile High Loop trail on the east side of the park will come down as soon as the new sod takes hold. Shortly after the meeting with DPR, the orange fences blocking access to the trail were reoriented to allow access to the trail during revegetation.  Very soon the Mile High Loop running trail will finally be open in its entirety–for the first time since museum construction began in September 2011.

 

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City Park Ice Cream Social – Friday, May 30, 2014

Ready for ice cream and the Denver Municipal Band?  Come join us at the 2014 City Park Ice Cream Social.  Sponsored by Boulder Ice Cream, the Denver Zoo, Colorado Fresh Markets, and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

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City Loop : Opportunity Lost

by Greg Davis (Board Chair, City Park Alliance)

On March 22, Lauri Dannemiller, Director of Denver Parks and Recreation, addressed a crowded room of stakeholders at the Denver Zoo to note that the City Loop project will not be constructed in City Park.  Upon making the announcement, the majority of the room roared with excitement. However, a few of the participants at that meeting, myself included, were disappointed. That marked not just the end of the loop project, but the end of a potential 3-5 million dollar investment in City Park.

What If?

City Park Alliance was aggressive in providing outreach throughout the playground design competition. For over a year, we provided updates on meetings through our web site, we urged citizens to take the online survey using a QR code which we handed out on 2,000 notecards at various events, and we showcased the potential designs at local businesses and at the City Park Ice Cream Social. City Park Alliance served on the design selection committee, and I was really excited about the potential of the City Loop. I was drawn to the sculptural beauty of the design and while it was very large in scale, much of the design did not contribute to the impervious footprint in the park.

CityLoop Clusters

While large in scope, the City Loop design included a number of interrelated “play clusters”, the connectivity of which could have been redesigned to reduce the visual impact of the project and to improve park habitat.

In my excitement over the City Loop design, I aggressively promoted it, and in hindsight, I was a little overzealous. The City Loop design, especially with the inclusion of seating areas and lighting associated with the “City Park Promenade”, was too significant for City Park. However, what if there could have been a balance? Did the City Loop need to be so literal, or could it have been segmented such that the linkage between the five play “clusters” was more of just a presumption? The proposed designs did include a significant amount of tree plantings and habitat improvement, but what if the design of the clusters was specifically oriented to improve the biological diversity of the park. Native grasses, trees, and perennials could have been planted in a pattern with the specific goals of enhancing wildlife movement corridors and improving vegetative heterogeneity. The City Park Promenade design could have been altered to provide some additional infrastructure while maintaining a natural look and feel. Finally, lighting systems could have been designed as being as minimal as possible with the overall goal of improving security for those accessing City Park from the west. All of these were options at the table from the beginning. However, they were more specifically on the table when Denver Parks and Recreation hosted meetings in March of 2014 with the specific purpose of re-designing the City Loop to fit better into the park. These meetings represented a tremendous opportunity to meet in the middle and to create a design which met everyone’s needs. All that remains today of the City Loop at City Park is an opportunity lost.

Competing Visions

One of the most difficult situations for compromise is when there are competing visions for the same asset. From the onset of the City Loop project, it was apparent that Denver Parks & Recreation and the surrounding neighborhood organizations have competing visions. Denver Parks & Recreation’s vision for City Park is that of a regional attraction- a place that people should visit from around the world and a place that should exemplify Denver’s growing reputation as a world class center for innovation. For local neighborhood associations and the outspoken advocates against the City Loop project, the vision for City Park is that of a natural landscape- an oasis in the city that should remain as undeveloped as possible.

Therein was the problem moving forward with the City Loop. Neither advocates for City Loop or opponents thereof were able to express how a compromise could still meet each other’s visions, thus resulting in a stalemate. Proponents of City Loop could have looked for opportunities to reduce the overall footprint of the project while exploring opportunities to improve biological diversity. Opponents of City Loop could have looked for opportunities to ensure that this would still be viewed as an innovative world class project invigorating all-ages play. Without framing the process in a way which recognized each other’s visions, thoughtful compromise was never possible.

We Can Do Better

In my day job as a federal regulator, I am constantly reminded of the power of thoughtful public input. Numerous people make a living privately or publicly criticizing the decisions made in my office, and for many of those people, effecting change is viewed as being thoroughly out of reach. However, the power of one person to make a difference in how new regulations are written can be immense when that input is provided at the right time, in the right place, and in the right context. So, how can we make this process better moving forward?

Denver Parks & Recreation:

Many advocates of City Park have memories of past proposals which tainted their overall view of the project, and rightly so. It was not too long ago that a fire station was proposed to be built in the park, City Park was being viewed as a potential location for the Denver Aquarium, and ticketed movies in the park were being considered. With that said, from my experience working with the City Loop, there was no hidden agenda moving forward. Every employee in Denver Parks & Recreation that I worked with on the City Loop project was excited to be part of it. This excitement was not related to potential revenues. This excitement was because City Loop had the potential to create a world class all-ages play area. With that said, here are some steps which Denver Parks & Recreation can take moving forward on similar projects:

  • Transparency: With the sting of past proposals still fresh (e.g., fire station), transparency is critical. While there were significant public meetings related to City Loop, meeting summaries were not posted or made available. This was compounded by the fact that the City Loop web site was not operational for several months. When there is a past history of concern and where a project can be considered controversial, transparency is critical through well documented communications.
  • Early involvement: The first time many people heard of the “reimagine play” project from which City Loop was chosen was during a design competition. The project parameters for the project such as costs and objectives were already defined. If these could have been brought to the neighborhood associations prior to the design competition being initiated, it would have provided a more productive dialog moving forward.
  • Recognition of competing visions: From day 1, the “reimagine play” design competition was created with the vision for City Park being that of a “regional park.” Many daily park users and neighborhood advocates do not share that vision. Early vetting of the project goals with neighborhood associations could have driven the project in a manner more consistent with the shared boundaries of the two visions.

Neighborhood Associations/ Park Advocates:

16th Street Mall

It’s important to stick to your vision, but sometimes you have to trust innovators to innovate. It’s hard to imagine Denver without the 16th Street Mall, but at one point, it was considered a controversial municipal project. Photo by Matt Wright – Wikimedia Commons

The first thing to understand about working with the City of Denver and Denver Parks and Recreation, is that they are always trying to innovate. In my federal employment, I’m constantly trying to create new approaches to do things better. I am inundated with information from around the world on the very specific topic of regulating stormwater discharges and integrating sustainable infrastructure into municipal designs. While on the job, I try to push the envelope by creating new concepts based on successes gleaned from around the world. Similarly, the City of Denver staff is inundated with information on topics such as land use and transportation planning, and they strive to use the best examples to make our city better through continual innovation.   The point being is that, while it may seem like the bubble is being pushed too far, there is often a logical endpoint conceived through extensive research. A case in point is the 16th Street Mall. In 1982, Phil Milstein, director of Downtown Denver, Inc., proposed the idea of a pedestrian mall. Numerous retailers, residents, and even Mayor Bill McNichols, callously rejected the proposal. However, today, it’s hard to envision Denver without the iconic I.M. Pei designed pedestrian mall serving as a transportation hub and state landmark. With that in mind, here are some steps which neighborhood associations and park advocates can take moving forward on similar projects:

  • Be open to new concepts: Similar to the example of the 16th Street Mall, the “reimagine play” concept was innovative to the core. While opponents of the City Loop repeated the concepts of “kid size” playgrounds “for kids”, these concepts are inconsistent with the emerging science of creating multi-aged play spaces. Numerous examples from around the world demonstrate the multiple benefits of all-ages play spaces in an urban area, and the designers of City Loop were very aware of what has worked, what can work, and how innovation can create amazing play spaces.
  • Comment proactively and with precision: In order to provide proactive feedback and effect positive change, it is critical to provide feedback at the right time, at the right place, and in the right context.
  • Be specific about your vision and how it can integrate with other’s visions: Early on in the process, it is necessary to not only state what your vision is, but how it can integrate with other’s visions. If City Loop were to have moved forward, the pathway to success would have started with the collective vision that the project would be designed not only with world class innovation but with a specific attention placed on maintaining and enhancing the natural beauty and biological diversity of City Park.

In the end, maybe the City Loop wasn’t what was best for City Park. This is a polarizing issue for which there was even disagreement between the various board members of the City Park Alliance. But I can’t help but think: If there had been engagement of neighborhoods early on…. If we could have been more organized in our communications… If we could have been better at recognizing our competing visions throughout the process… what could have been.

(This article represents the opinion of the City Park Alliance board chair, Greg Davis, and does not reflect the opinions of the entire City Park Alliance board)

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