Pushing for a much-needed park in University Hills

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Readers may be surprised to learn that in 1945 Denver was experiencing a housing crisis. With the end of World War II, millions of soldiers were looking to settle down and start their lives. With both Lowry and Buckley Fields nearby, many soldiers “landed” in Denver and the city's population increased 146 percent from 1940-1965.

In the 1950s, 2,200 new affordable homes were built in the University Hills neighborhood, located east of Colorado Boulevard between Evans and Hampden avenues. Land was set aside south of Yale Avenue for Bradley Elementary School, Eisenhower Park and the Ross Library. North of Yale, the new neighborhood included Denver's first regional shopping center, as well as the Christian Reformed Church and its affiliates: Bethesda Sanatorium (treating tuberculosis and, later, mental illness and now housing Denver Academy), a care home for seniors (now Clermont Park) and, later, the Van Dellen Denver Christian School.

For decades, University Hills didn't see much change, until 2006 when the Southeast Light Rail line opened with two stations in the neighborhood — the Yale Station and the Colorado Station. With Denver's current population boom and subsequent housing crisis, proximity to these stations has spurred new development, much of it high-density housing.

Today, the northern part of the neighborhood looks and feels very different. There are hundreds of new apartments and townhomes under construction north of Yale, likely more than doubling the population. Unfortunately, residents north of Yale do not have access to the amenities that are south of Yale, including a park, the High Line Canal, a school or a library. Families must go quite a distance to access these amenities, and they must cross Yale Avenue or Colorado Boulevard, both very busy.

Neighborhood leaders have asked city leaders for a park north of Yale for many years while they have watched as every available piece of property has been snatched up by developers. Today, they are stepping up their campaign for a park. They've gotten around 100 letters of support, raised some money, and have prepared their plea to the city. Together, we will be making their case to the mayor and parks director Happy Haynes, both of whom recognize the need.

A national parks advocacy group, The Trust for Public Lands, is also advocating for the park as part of its national effort for every neighborhood to be within a 10-minute walk to a park. Today, residents who live north of Yale cannot walk to a park safely or within 10 minutes. With hard work and some good luck, hopefully the city will be able to use funds that community members have raised as well as funds from the recently-passed parks tax to bring this neighborhood a park that they very much need.

Kendra Black represents Denver City Council District 4 of southeast Denver. The district includes neighborhoods such as Wellshire, University Hills and Hampden. She can be reached at kendra.black@denvergov.org.

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