Note: the following position statement was unanimously approved by the voting members of the Denver Greens on Sunday, February 16, 2014. To find out how to become a voting member, click here.
The Denver Greens are alarmed by the precedent presented by the situation regarding a land swap of the open space commonly referred to as Hentzell Park. This open space was named by the City of Denver in 1981 in honor of former Denver city councilman Paul A. Hentzell, and since then, taxpayer resources have been expended for its upkeep, including the installation of signage and maintenance of pathways, just like any other officially-designated Denver park. We are hopeful that the Denver District Court takes up the review of the previous denial of preliminary injunction against the construction currently underway. That court date is scheduled for May 19, 2014.
The Hentzell Park area has a particular historical and environmental significance to the Denver area. It was once a part of the Cherokee Trail that led to the gold rush fields of California and was the site of gold discoveries along Clear Creek, near present-day Denver. It is currently the home of many species of wildlife, including mule deer and red fox, golden eagles and Great Blue herons and many grassland plants native to the Front Range.
As stated within the 10 Key Values of the Green Party of the United States, “We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our communities and our planet.” Therefore, the Denver Greens recognize the immense value of preservation of publicly-used lands like Hentzell Park.
The Denver city charter, Section 2.4.5 – Sale and Leasing of Parks, states in part that, “Without the approval of a majority of those registered electors voting in an election held by the City and County of Denver, no park or portion of any park belonging to the City as of December 31, 1955, shall be sold or leased at any time.”
The Denver Greens recognize that an untenable situation has arisen because the land has been maintained and treated as an official park, even though a formal vote was never taken to recognize it as such. Because of this failure of our city government to properly steward the expenditure of tax dollars via the upkeep of publicly-used land without proper park designation, an unfortunate loophole has been created. This governmental can has been kicked down the road repeatedly, while the land has been targeted for various initiatives, including a water park and as a portion of Kennedy Golf Course.
It is our opinion, however, that this loophole does not excuse the City’s responsibility to cement the public trust by bringing forth the disposition of this land to a vote by the people. We do not support this land swap, and we believe that the will of the people through proper democratic action has been subverted in this transaction.
Our tenth Key Value, “Future Focus and Sustainability,” states that “(w)e must counterbalance the drive for short-term profits by assuring that economic development, new technologies, and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations who will inherit the results of our actions.” It is clear that many mayoral administrations and city councils have failed to designate the Hentzell Park area as an official park by ordinance. Additionally, there are an additional 60 different public use areas not protected via ordinance, which creates more opportunity for land speculation and possibly even privatization.
The Denver Greens call upon both the Mayor of Denver and the Denver City Council to exercise their fiduciary responsibility as stewards of the public purse and as mandated by the voters of Denver county and immediately fix the designation of the 60 different public areas as official parks via ordinance before the end of the council’s 2014 legislative session.