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A steering committee will meet for the first time this week to initiate a “visioning process” for the 155 acre property that includes the now closed Park Hill Golf Course.

“Committee members will meet monthly to review and consider public feedback, involve others in the vision process, and ultimately recommend action for the Denver City Council to review,” according to the Denver Community Planning and Development website. The 27-strong steering committee includes local residents, representatives from local neighborhood organizations and officials from Westside Investment Partners, the development company that bought the land from a trust for $ 24 million in 2019. The first meeting of the committee is scheduled for 5pm on February 9th.

In order not to be outdone by the city, however, today, February 8th, at 10:30 am, proponents of keeping the golf course grounds open will be holding a press conference to uncover “some of the very important concerns for the future of” the country of the Park Hill Golf Course and its conservation measures, “said Save Open Space Denver.

“We feel that the whole envisioning process is inappropriate and premature. It is inappropriate because the city has recognized that it is being led by developers, which is problematic and not based on the needs of the city as a whole,” says Penfield Tate. a former state legislature and the Denver mayoral candidate who was one of those who struggled to keep the country open.

That relief goes back decades. The city of Denver originally planned to purchase the land, which has been used as a golf course since 1932, from the George W. Clayton Trust, administered by Clayton Early Learning, a nonprofit that cares for low-income children and runs a preschool and educational research institute, that uses $ 2 million generated through a 1989 loan. (At one point, the city was the trustee of that trust, but was removed in the 1980s.)

However, the $ 2 million was insufficient to cover the purchase, and the city instead paid that amount in consideration for a conservation effort that limited the property’s potential use. In 1997, Denver City Council passed the easement establishment measure, the language of which is the subject of much debate today.

Mayor Michael Hancock’s government officials claim the conservation measures require the land to be used primarily as a golf course. Westside agrees to this legal reading; There was a calculated risk that the relief when buying the property was lifted or at least changed. (The city itself paid Westside $ 6 million to use some of the land for the Platte to Park Hill rainwater detention project.)

According to Kenneth Ho, project manager at Westside, the land must be used as an 18-hole, regular-length golf course and driving range. He notes that the company does not believe a golf course is an appropriate use of land and “looks forward to working with neighbors as part of a city-led vision process to determine what they want and need in their neighborhood and what to do together Develop a shared vision that can be so much better than just a golf course. “

But Tate and others who have tried to preserve the land as open space argue that the city misinterprets the language of conservation efforts. “I feel that if you have other recreational activities that are compatible with recreational and open space use of the land, it is compatible with conservation purposes,” says Tate.

Tate, former Denver mayor Wellington Webb, in office at the time the easement was passed, and other members of the Save Open Space Denver advocacy group initially attempted to pin an action for the November 2020 vote that required a resident vote would have done whenever the city wants to suspend a conservation department. When the pandemic undid potential signature-gathering efforts, they found a supporter of the measure in councilor Candi CdeBaca, who introduced her to the Denver city council. However, in August 2020, the council voted against referring the proposal to the ballot.

Even without that provision, Tate and Save Open Space Denver claim the city or developer must go to court to have the relief lifted. City officials say the council itself can overturn the relief.

And as this debate goes on, the Steering Committee members will discuss what they want to see in the countryside … and what is possible.

“Northeast Park Hill has many needs – accessible affordable housing, a convenience store, restaurants and retail stores, a good park with amenities for children, professional training and business opportunities, and more,” said Abdur Rahim Ali, the imam at the Northeast Denver Islamic Center. wrote in a 2020 letter to the Denver City Council: “Many of us have been suspicious of development efforts in the past, but we believe a balanced plan for the former golf course could help this neighborhood. We need the people who are in the immediate vicinity Live close. ” Neighborhood to have the conversation, to find out what the right balance can be. “

Both Ali and Ho will be on the steering committee. Then there is Drew Dutcher, president of the Elyria and Swansea Neighborhood Association, who believes that preserving the land as open space is important to the general health of Park Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods. “The Hancock Administration [should] stop promoting the interests of his developer friends at the expense of the public, “says Dutcher.

Other members of this public want their voices to be heard too.

“Our main concern is that we may feel like we are not at the table. Nobody has come to us asking for our opinion. We have not been able to voice our concerns or be part of the process,” said Stephanie Syner, a ten-time woman . Year residents of Northeast Park Hill said during a council meeting in August 2020.

Councilor Chris Herndon, of whose northeast Denver district the 155-acre property belongs, also spoke at the meeting. “I want Northeast Park Hill to determine what happens to this park,” he said. “If you said, ‘I want 155 acres of open space’, rest assured that I would be your biggest advocate. And if you wanted anything else, I would continue to be your biggest advocate.”

Read Save Open Space Denver’s letter to the city here. You can watch the press conference today at 10:30 a.m. on Zoom. Here’s how to watch the first Steering Committee meeting.

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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh works for Westword where he covers a range of topics including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and enjoys talking about New York sports.