By Jill Mullen
Did you know that in 2022 Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) recorded 16.5 million visits to Denver parks? Fun fact: In North Denver, Berkeley Park, located at the corner of 46th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard, was the sixth-busiest regional park with 357,444 visits. So what Denver park was the busiest? You might be able to guess it’s Red Rocks Park, with 3,495,146 visits in 2022.
Several years ago when I moved to Denver, I remember people telling me how Denver has lots of green space. I’m originally from Texas where there are a lot of golf courses, but um, a little lacking in parks. Denver residents were not joking. Denver has more than 250 urban parks and over 14,000 acres of mountain parks.
We can see from the numbers Denver residents not only brag about their parks, but they are utilizing them. The numbers from 2022 are based on aggregate cell-phone data accessed by DPR to help determine how our parks are being utilized and where resources should be allocated. The cell-phone data (which is both deidentified and aggregated when purchased from a company called Placer.ai) was recently used to determine where efficient and effective places are to put portable bathrooms in Denver parks.
If you are interested in learning more about our parks, let me introduce you to the Denver Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB). The board includes 19 members appointed by each Denver City Council member, the mayor and Denver Public Schools, and meets regularly on the second Wednesday of each month from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The meetings are currently virtual and are always open to the public. At the beginning of each meeting, the board receives public comments. Then, the PRAB receives presentations from DPR about upcoming initiatives and changes DPR is proposing, and has a voice on various park policies as needed.
As an example, the board heard a presentation in April regarding proposed changes to the park turfgrass policy. The city was planning to update the turfgrass policy to limit its use as the primary landscaping groundcover in areas identified as providing limited to no recreational value. The goal was to replace the water-greedy grass with drought-tolerant and ecosystem-restorative species.
The new policy would be used to transition low-traffic areas, usually those spaces between a roadway and park walk or pockets of grass in the middle of parking areas, with native grasses that require less water. This not only promotes water conservation but also prepares our parks to be more climate-resistant landscapes. Apparently, having move native grasses along lake shorelines also assists with geese management. Geese are less likely to linger in parks that have long grasses along the edge, as opposed to nicely cut bluegrass. The PRAB voted in favor of the proposal, which moved on to City Council for approval. This is just one example of the types of initiatives the PRAB learns about and can weigh in on.
I am the Denver City Council District 1 appointee to the PRAB and would love to hear from folks in the district about what’s going on in their favorite park. The PRAB is a link from DPR to the community and works best when the community is engaged and provides feedback regarding new park and recreation initiatives. If you have a question about a recent park renovation or a suggestion to make a park better, I would love to hear it. Or, if you just want to talk about how cool our parks and recreation system is, I’m always game, because I completely agree.
I hope everyone is able to enjoy a park this month. With the colorful leaves and changing season upon us, there is no better time to savor a green space. Go parks!
Jill Mullen is an attorney and local park enthusiast. Email her with comments for the Denver Parks and Recreation Advisory Board at jmullenPRAB@gmail.com.
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