Denver Direct: Denver Slated to Lose Critical Natural Area

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Denver Slated to Lose Critical Natural Area

Photo by Ray Ehrenstein

On January 2, 2013, Denver Parks and Recreation Manager Laurie Dannemiller removed the Natural Area designation from a portion of Hentzell Park (aka Hampden Heights Open Space Area). This action flies in the face of the recommendation of her own Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the majority of whom voted on December 13, 2012, to deny Mayor Hancock’s request that de-designation occur. The Mayor wanted de-designation so that the City can convey the land to Denver Public Schools. DPS plans to build a new school on the site; in exchange for the land, the City would get a DPS building at 1330 Fox Street that would be used for a domestic
violence center. This exchange of property will next be considered mid-February by the
Government and Finance Committee of the City Council, and then by the full City Council,
which has the final say, some time in March.

Why Losing 9 Acres of Hentzell Designated Natural Area Should be Opposed
1. We need more not less urban parkland, in light of Denver’s expected population
increase, and this action would set an unacceptable precedent that could erode the quality and
size of Denver’s park system;
2. The land in question, though described by Mayor Hancock as “blighted”, is in fact an
area that was designated as having significant biological value in 2007 by Denver’s Department
of Parks and Recreation, and the unique seed stock and vegetation on this site has not changed
significantly since that time. Those who consider the area unsightly are responding to the way it
looks superficially rather than to its biologic significance;
3. The Hentzell site is in a flood plain: Building a school on this site, as a result, is
unwise on the face of it; moreover, schools in Denver have a long history of being opened,
closed, re-opened and even demolished– the latter possibility would open the way for
commercial development of this property. Loss of a rare Natural Area (Denver has only166
acres of land deemed worthy of Natural Area designation) for such development would be a real
4. All parkland managed by DPR including natural areas is held in the public trust. It
should not be used (or sold) for purposes removed from conservation, preservation, and
recreation. The City Charter provides the model for how this land should be treated. The
Charter prohibits the sale or leasing of land designated as a park by ordinance without approval
by a majority of registered voters. Conveying 9 acres of Hentzell Park to DPS without a vote of
the people violates the spirit of the City Charter.
What You Can Do
 Write Denver City Council members to express your opposition to this land transfer, to
encourage designation as Denver Parks all legally-available land, and to alter the City
Charter to require a vote of the people for de-designation of all lands managed by DPR;
 Attend the Government and Finance Committee Meeting and the City Council Meeting at
which the land transfer issue will be discussed and consider speaking, if there is a
hearing; and
 Find more information, including updates at
1/17/ 2013 Advocates for Denver’s Parks