The City Loop project was initially promoted as a plan to replace City Park’s Dustin Redd playground with a more modern playground using low-maintenance materials. It mushroomed into a $5,000,000 Regional Attraction that is to become “one of Denver’s most vibrant civic spaces,” with thousands of visitors, staffed kiosks, comfort stations, and food trucks. City Loop is not a plan to support play for young children: it is a plan to transform City Park.
City Park currently consists of three components: the Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and public park land.
The Zoo and the Museum are Regional Attractions which draw 4,000,000 visitors per year. The Zoo and Museum are open on a schedule dictated by the institutions and to paying visitors only. They occupy approximately 120 of the park’s approximately 318 total acres.
The public land in City Park is the neighborhood park for the residents of Park Hill, South City Park, City Park West, Whittier, and North City Park. Some Congress Park neighbors also consider City Park their neighborhood park.
With the passage of the 2010 Denver Zoning Code, control of park land no longer resides with City Council, but solely with the Mayor’s office. Furthermore, City Park is considered one entity with no distinction or protection for the green space, public areas. The appointed Manager of Parks and Recreation may choose to transfer land from the park area to the Zoo at will, as the current Manager, Lauri Dannemiller, did just this year. She gave 4000 square feet to the Zoo for a private, fenced parking lot, politely explaining to neighbors that she was under no obligation to consult or inform them (see Denver Zoo Expands at Parks Manager’s Discretion).
Once the $5,000,000 Regional Attraction, City Loop, becomes ”one of Denver’s most vibrant civic spaces,” with its thousands of visitors, staffed kiosks, comfort stations, and food trucks, what will the City decide to do? Will the inevitable high operating costs and security requirements result in the City converting all of City Park into an admission-based venue? They don’t have to ask Denver’s citizens for permission, or even tell us in advance.
What about the citizens of City Park’s neighborhoods, many of whom are economically disadvantaged and/or minority? What will be their neighborhood park? Where will they go for a quiet run? to walk the dog? to teach their child to ride a bike? to throw a ball in the grass? to fish for crawdads? Nature is scarce in the city. Why are we taking more of it away? Will further insult and inconvenience be added in the form of snarled traffic and permitted neighborhood parking, just to support Regional Visitors? Are Denver citizens of less value than Regional Visitors?
What is the plan for City Park?