The Issue: The Mountain Parks Need Our Help
These parks are like Denver’s children, but these are stepchildren out of a dark Victorian novel. Loved, perhaps, but ill-clothed, underfed. Comprehensive studies and strategies have been developed for Denver’s park system and intergovernmental relationships through the 2008 Master Plan, the 2002 Game Plan, the 2001 Recreation Management Plan, and the District-wide Historical and Cultural Facilities Assessment. We learned the parks have:
Whereas the Mountain Parks division oversees almost 22 square miles (or 71.8%) of Denver’s total parks and open space, the 2001 division funding was $760,000 or 1.4% of the Denver Parks & Rec. Budget. Used primarily for operations, maintenance, and repairs— NOT for upgrades or expansion— funding in 2005 was down to only about $685,000 or $48.93 per acre. This pales in comparison to the money spent by Jefferson County Open Space, Fort Collins, and other Front Range communities.
Degradation of the Mountain Park system continues despite outstanding efforts by the Mountain Parks District staff. Currently, an estimated $1.5 million is needed for immediate repairs and $2.5 million more for restoration of key structures, landscapes, and sites— as well as a pressing need for park rangers and timber, noxious weed, and natural resource management. As the population of the metropolitan area expands—as park system usage increases—these conditions will become exacerbated.
Lack of a Dedicated Advocate
After George Cranmer retired in 1947, and the Mountain Parks Commission was dissolved, little representation has existed to advocate for Denver’s Mountain Parks. They are, after all, in no one’s City Council district. Even though the 2003 Game Plan Survey shows “71 percent of Denverites visited one of the traditional mountain parks (excluding Red Rocks) at least once during the last year,” virtually all of the money and the efforts of current park advocates have been urban in focus.
No Dedicated Funding Source
Since the termination of the special mill levy in 1955, no dedicated mechanism has existed for consistent funding of Mountain Park-specific projects or needs.