The thinking behind Denver’s expansive parks system already is evolving — the newest parks are more likely to include areas with natural vegetation, more places are being converted to cater to niche sports such as disc golf, and lately dog parks have become among the most coveted offerings.
A new city report that’s part of a drive to set the course for Denver Parks and Recreation for the next 15 to 20 years says such adaptations must accelerate as the parks system contends with several emerging challenges. Chief among them are a rapidly growing population with changing expectations and health needs, climate changes that will impose new environmental stresses on the landscape, and limited budgets and resources that could strain all of those efforts.
Those findings are contained in an “Existing Conditions Report” unveiled by city parks officials Friday.
Over the course of 144 pages, the report takes stock of the Denver Parks and Recreation system, including 20,000 acres of city and mountain parks and 27 recreation centers. It sets the table for a wide-ranging discussion of future challenges by a community task force that in coming months will draft the first update to the city’s parks plan since 2003.
“Parks have often been seen as one of the ‘nice-to-haves,’ ” said Denver parks director Allegra “Happy” Haynes, or something to invest in only after the city takes care of the basics.
“Part of what we’re trying to demonstrate and what we’ve seen in the findings in our study is that Parks and Recreation … is an important piece of city infrastructure, just like having streets to get places,” she said. “And that what we do has to be an integral part of the health and social well-being of our community.”
The final future-envisioning result will be the latest version of “The Game Plan,” the moniker that Parks and Rec long has used to describe its course-setting plans. It’s one of four strategic plans being drafted during the city’s two-month “Denveright” planning process. Others will focus on land use and transportation, transit and pedestrian access.DPR Game Plan Existing Conditions Report 03-02-2017