Denver’s 2023 election takes place in just three weeks, deciding the city’s mayor and city council, as well as several important ballot measures. The people of Denver will decide on Ballot Measure 2O, which is set to end the conservation easement on the Park Hill Golf Course, allowing private owners to begin developing on the land.
Westside Investment Partners owns the land and has built a robust plan for the area’s redevelopment that includes affordable housing, retail, and public parks. However, locals have criticized the plan for destroying too much of the site’s open space and prefer that the golf course remains for now.
“It’s a perpetual easement for a reason,” said local Michael McCumber. “I want to see a track and a ballpark for the kids, but I really want the easement to be honored, which is for open spaces and recreation.”
McCumber moved into his house around 20 years ago because of the open space, often walking his dog, Ruby, around the area. Even during a cold and overcast day, many were still out with their pets, as well.
On top of affordable housing, Westside Investment’s plan includes adding 100 acres dedicated to public parks and other recreation, establishing Denver’s 11th regional park in North Park Hill. Details and Westside Investment’s full vision for the property can be seen on Yes for Parks and Homes.
“Denver can be confident that the approval of 2O will absolutely provide affordable housing, our fourth largest park, and unprecedented community benefits for North East Denver,” said Rev. Terri Hobart, a practitioner of mystical Christianity at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, during a city-sanctioned debate.
However, only 25% of the newly built units will be considered affordable housing. And according to Penfield Tate of Save Open Space Denver, or S.O.S, and the movement’s lawyer, the easement already has provisions to allow other types of recreation besides a golf course.
North Park Hill Resident Kevin Doyle helped with the charge against 2O as a leader of S.O.S, which has been petitioning to keep the land as open space since 2015. While some still support Westside Investment’s plan, Doyle says the community voiced their opinion in 2021 with Ordinance 302. At that time, 62% of the community voted no to ending the conservation easement.
“It’s been the fight of my life,” said Doyle. “This neighborhood has passed six different resolutions that we’ve sent to city council and the mayor’s office that have said we don’t support any development on this land. Everyone supports us in this fight, except for the city.”
Kevin and his wife, Sherri, chose their home because of the nearby open space, something they thought the perpetual easement would guarantee for them and their kids to enjoy.
Even Former Mayor Wellington Webb, who first put in place the conservation easement in 1997, voiced his concerns about Westside’s plan, believing too much of the open space would be lost because of it. His ultimate goal at the time was to add a track and field and other recreation to the land, but first and foremost, ensure that it would remain free of commercial and residential development.
“Why is this the only option?” asked McCumber. “Why not get creative where there’s already plumbing and infrastructure built instead of ruining the last place of green space in Denver?”
People pro-2O have cited Denver’s desperate need for affordable housing as the main reason to vote yes on the measure, leaving some residents torn between both sides. Robert Washington lives only a few blocks from the golf course, and though he knows the value of allowing more people to live in Denver, he also values the open space for his family.
“More people are coming from different states, so I think it’s a good idea to build something there,” said Washington. “But it’s been there forever; it’s a staple. My wife walks around it all the time to get her exercise, so it would be good to leave it as open space.”
While Washington is still on the fence about who and what he’s voting for, he knows he will be out to vote on April 4 with the rest of North Park Hill.