By Holly Joyce and Hank Bootz
City Park Fans And Neighbors is a newly formed Registered Neighborhood Organization (RNO) and an advocacy group for the stewardship of City Park. The newly created organization joins the four existing neighborhood associations surrounding City Park. The group formally registered on Jan. 28.
Organizers believe a more comprehensive involvement with City Park is warranted, and want to present more positive support of the park. Although Greater Park Hill Community is one of the oldest RNO’s in Denver, residents determined City Park needed a coalition of neighbor groups.
“I am excited that we now have an RNO dedicated solely to City Park” says President Pro Tem John VanSciver. “Any resident, business owner, or property owner within the City Park Fans And Neighbors boundaries will be able to join.”
Nancy Francis, a founding member, says the organization uses the models at Washington and Cheesman Parks. “By forming, we bring all of City Park’s neighbors together to protect and support the park we share.”
Denver has 260 other registered RNOs, which represent residents and work cooperatively to make their neighborhood a better place to live. By ordinance, RNOs get notices of official city actions.
Some have asked, “Why another RNO?” since several already surround City Park. The concept grew out of concern for recent developments within City Park and a realization that the park is a precious and vital part of urban lives of all of its neighbors.
The organization will provide unwavering community-based oversight, critical at a time when city density increases and parks provide a communal refuge for well-being.
Last fall, a letter published in this newspaper opposed City Loop, a proposal by Mayor Michael B. Hancock and the Denver Parks and Recreation Department to develop a 13-acre, $5 million “regional attraction” on the western side of City Park. The letter-writers received many supportive e-mails.
Concerned neighbors subsequently launched an informational web site, StopCityLoop.org and started a petition to halt the project. The four neighborhood associations bordering the park adopted a resolution calling for further evaluation and neighborhood input. These same colleagues realized the time had come for a RNO dedicated to City Park, known as “the crown jewel” of the city’s park system and site of the second largest Martin Luther King, Jr. monument in the country, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and Denver Zoo.
“Our organization strongly supports ‘kid-sized’ playgrounds for those 10 and under,” says VanSciver. “City Park neighbors should feel it is ‘their park,’ and be allowed to be involved before major changes are implemented. We definitely need to avoid more pavement!”
Organizers seek neighborhood involvement to help it focus on some of the tough issues of park management and oversight. These include special events, activities and recreation management, limiting commercialization, safety, and wildlife protection. The organization will also work to maintain irreplaceable green space and the classical character of City Park, preserve its historical heritage, and sustain its many structures, monuments, and landscapes.
Following a lawsuit contesting the transfer of nine acres of Hampden Heights North Park to the school district, other Denverites see a need to protect parks from a wide range of developments and internal city forces that threaten their natural spaces.
The founders of the neighborhood organization follow Cindy Johnstone and Washington Park area residents who, in 2006, observed increased pressures upon their park from reduced budgets and more and larger events. Realizing the park requires special care, support and attention beyond traditional RNOs, the group formed FANS (Friends and Neighbors) of Washington Park.
Cheesman Park has a similar RNO, dedicated to preserving traditional park values.