Denver Direct: Dustin Redd Playground Redesign Redux

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dustin Redd Playground Redesign Redux

by Linda Drake 12/17


Four members of Denver Parks and Rec, including Manager Lauri Dannemiller, came to a meeting of neighbors concerned with further development of City Park on December 6th – and they listened. See the letter from “Denver Parks and Recreation Leadership Team” in today’s post at Denver Direct.

We could thank them, issue a huge sigh of relief, and go on and enjoy our holidays; however a breach of trust takes longer to heal than can be resolved by a letter. By that I mean that our disagreement with the scope and complexity of the Dustin Redd redesign was so huge, that it’s difficult, from this side of the fence, to trust that they have done an about-face. In analyzing the letter, they said that for now, they have dispensed with fundraising. That’s smart.

They also noted that they have done tons of outreach prior to our recent meeting with them. I wish they’d stop saying that; it reminds me of the old saw,“If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Please. Most of us knew that Dustin Redd Playground (DR) was in the process of a redesign; we just didn’t know that the eons-old concepts of play and parks were also being redesigned. The full extent of the redesign became clear to many only very recently. As I noted in a recent email to Councilman Albus Brooks, “If you’re really wanting to make a big change in City Park, then thorough communication is essential, and that requires a lot of time, on all our parts – and the time period for consideration needs to be extended.” It does look like this is occurring now.

From the letter it sounds like they will do some necessary research on general City Park maintenance, and that is new. That might directly answer the concern voiced on Dec 6th: “How can you raise money for and maintain a huge new project when you can’t even maintain current City Park structures?”
Lauri said on Dec 6th that they have already done a Parking study – with the result that no parking was provided for in the 3 and 13-acre design (3 developed acres connected by a track around 13 acres) for what they have dubbed a “regional park.”

The size of the playground was not addressed in the letter, other than the City Design team, with the assistance of Tina Bishop of Mundus-Bishop Designs will discuss changes to size and scope of the project. IMO, they would immediately dispense with the 13-acre concept and I hope that they will seriously reconsider the three-acre concept.

An acre is about the size of a football field without the end zones. Does City Park really need to increase the size of DR from one acre to three acres, regardless of the Denver Parks Master Plan for Play Areas (2008)? Do we want those potential three acres connected through 13 acres with a rubberized 8-foot track?

Why are so many of us against playground size expansion? A local naturopathic doctor/ author Jacob Schor addresses the value of green space vis-à-vis Justin Redd Playground in his latest newsletter:
“Community groups are making a clamor about this remodel, fussing about parking, maintenance costs and a host of other details.

I worry about something else, whether these changes will deprive people of the benefits of having an accessible green space?

According to epidemiological research there is a positive relationship between the amount of green space in the living environment and physical health, mental health and overall longevity. [citation] Exposure to ‘Green Space’ improves health but the extent of this effect has been under-appreciated. The impact of exposure to nature is so powerful that it may negate harmful influences on health. Most strikingly, exposure to green space erases the harmful influence caused by disparities in income. “
At the beginning of the article, he describes his own experience of walking through the Park. You may find this newsletter here, well worth the read.

StopCityLoop would like to have two representatives from each of the surrounding neighborhoods, selected by the neighbors, along with a recognized Early Childhood Education expert on the team that will reevaluate the redesign of Dustin Redd Playground in the next few months. Some sort of community participation would certainly help in rebuilding the trust between the City and our community.

One thing is for sure: if you are concerned about City Park, keep your March schedule as open as possible. Parks and Rec will hold a community meeting (just one??) to obtain our feedback on Dustin Redd Redesign Redux; they just don’t know the exact date yet. We need to be there. Also, watch for an upcoming community forum sponsored by City Park Alliance, not yet scheduled.

And to Denver Parks & Rec: Thank you for listening; thank you for your letter! Thank you for remaining open to further comments.