39th Avenue Greenway and Park Hill Golf Course Set for $78 Million Flood Control Project
Dozens of people have spoken out against the city’s $78 million plan to build a greenway canal and convert part of Park Hill Golf Club to stormwater control in North Denver, but the proposals have obtained crucial approvals after several hours of discussion by the Denver City Council on Tuesday. .
The 39th Avenue Canal:
A $57 million, mile-long project will run a sunken canal through the neighborhoods of Clayton and Cole. It will be a park green space, like an artificial creek bed, with a greenway path. During heavy storms, it will capture flood waters and divert them to the South Platte River, rather than letting the waters flow through low-lying areas to the north.
The council discussed on Tuesday the contract with SEMA, the canal’s main design-build company, and drainage control for the nearby golf course.
Both are part of the Platte System at Park Hill which will protect Interstate 70, the National Western Center and other rapidly developing areas along the Platte. (Its benefits could also extend further south eventually.)
The canal project has raised concerns in the community both because it is seen as part of a massive development push and because there is potentially contaminated soil in areas that will be disturbed by construction .
Janet Feder, for example, said an old gas station near her home on Gilpin Street likely left a toxic legacy. “We expect to find a leaking lead holding tank,” she said. The area has also been marked by North Denver’s long history of industrial smelting operations.
Feder said she was troubled by a perceived lack of interest from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. Much of northeast Denver falls into a Superfund site. Feder and others want the EPA to expand “operational unit” areas on the site for cleanup action. (See a map here.)
“Some agency employees will dismiss my concerns as unrealistic because northeast Denver has been an urban area for over a century,” said Cole resident Kimberly Morse.
City staff said contractors would take additional safety precautions. Along with a standard materials management plan, they will use “proactive air monitoring,” rather than waiting for contaminants to be detected to begin air monitoring, according to project manager Jenn Hillhouse. Staff also noted that Denver consistently addresses environmental issues during construction projects.
Aris Sheiner, who owns a house next to the proposed canal, said he saw it as vital amenities for an avenue “in desperate need of renewal”. And Council Chairman Albus Brooks said the project would be a crucial link in flood defenses for thousands of homes in a vulnerable area.
Still, other residents said they wanted more environmental work before the project was approved, as did council members Espinoza and Wayne New, who said the presentation of the project had been “so confusing” and ” arrogant”. And Councilman Paul Kashmann said the project was rushed simply to help the controversial Interstate 70 project.
Espinoza, Kashmann and New voted against the measure.
The city of Denver says it wants to use about 30 acres of Park Hill Golf Club as part of its stormwater control system. The current plan is that the northeast corner of the club would be remodeled to allow it to store water during heavy storms. Once completed, the land could still be used for golf, as is done at City Park Golf Course.
In a 7-4 vote, the council approved a bill that will allow the city to seal off part of the golf course and use it for flood control. The entire course will be closed for construction from January 2019 to March 2020.
Initially, the city planned to purchase the entire Park Hill course for over $20 million from Clayton Early Learning, the nonprofit organization that controls the land. Possibilities included developing part of the land for affordable housing. It did not work.
Instead, the city is now moving to forcibly purchase the right to use part of the land, while keeping the golf course possible to exploit. But the question of whether or not the earth would truly remain open space was a central concern on Tuesday night.
Espinoza said he fears the deal is being put together in a way that could let Clayton out of the long-standing agreement that prevents development on the ground, and he called on the board to look further. close.
“We have supervisory power. This is our job,” he said. “It is our only and strong power.”
General Counsel Robin Kniech expressed a similar concern, asking Clayton officials if they would use the technical details of the sentencing to enable the development. In the end, she said she was confident they wouldn’t until the golf course was restored.
Councilman Kevin Flynn said there were too many unknowns, saying he was “very concerned” that the proposal gave a “foot in the door” for redevelopment of the land.
Councilor Kendra Black said she was confident in the process.
“This bill is not going to end with the development of the golf course,” she said.
By contrast, Kashmann felt that the board was kept in the dark.
“I don’t think everything is on the table. I don’t think the board was given the full truth about Clayton’s or the administration’s plans,” he said.
General Counsel Debbie Ortega also said she felt like she hadn’t been shown the whole situation. “Unless we ask the right questions…we see these things piecemeal,” she said.
Council members Espinoza, Flynn, Ortega and Kashmann voted against the golf course acquisition ordinance.