Platte to Park Hill Storm Water Project Proposes Alteration to City Park Golf Course

In late 2015 the City of Denver announced plans to create a storm water detention pond for the Montclair Basin in east Denver. Three potential locations were identified, and in the Spring of 2016 the City announced that City Park Golf Course, bounded by York, Colorado, 23rd and 26th, was selected as the finalist. During the summer the City created a Redesign Work Group, comprised of community members and active course users, to begin discussing details related to the project, which will require modifications to the course. While Historic Denver has not endorsed the Platte to Park Hill project or the selection of City Park Golf Course as the detention location, the organization is participating in the Redesign Work Group to ensure that the historic features and character of the course are honored.

Information from the City of Denver on the entire Platte to Park Hill project, the project timeline and other details can be found HERE.

Historic Denver is involved because City Park Golf Course is part of City Park, and the entire park is designated on the National Register of Historic Places. The designation was granted in 1986 as part of the first-ever designation of a parks and parkway system in the country. The designation includes a short summary of the Course, noting the ways its natural topography provides expansive mountain views, and how the rise in the land to the east becomes the horizon and so also create a sense of vastness to the east. Giant plains cottonwood trees run along a natural interior swale as well as along the perimeter in some locations. Clusters of pine trees were added over time, most likely between the mid-1930s and the late 1950s.

The Course opened in 1913, and the Course designer was Tom Bendelow, who was known as the “Johnny Appleseed” of golf as he worked to make the game more popular and accessible. Hailing from Scotland and then based in Chicago, he designed hundreds of golf courses across the country. He used the natural setting and topographical features to make course design economical. The Olmsted brothers were involved in some of the City Park planning around this same time and also appear to have influenced Bendelow and the Golf Course design. Overtime the Golf Course has also established a legacy of inclusivity and was integrated well before many other courses in the Denver area.

When City Park Golf Course opened, it was mostly natural landscape, and grass fairways were not installed until more than a decade later. Additionally, trees were added to the course over time and in many cases used to either create challenges on the course or to mark greens. The original Club House, built in 1918 and expanded in 1923, was located at the site of the current Club House but was demolished in the 1990s.

As part of the redesign conversations, Historic Denver has sought to identify and understand impacts of proposed alterations to the features the contribute to the Course’s history and design character. These features include:

— The views, both out of and into the course, from the east and from the west.
— The sense of “vastness” created by the openness of the course and topography
— The trees, and particularly the cottonwood trees that are the oldest and the pine trees placed to create challenge and definition
— The spatial relationships among the Course features and spaces
— The topography, which rises from a low-point on the west to higher ground to the east

During the redesign conversations Historic Denver is analyzing and evaluating the impact of various alternative scenarios on these contributing features, and advocating for solutions that minimize an adverse impact.

As of October 2016 Historic Denver is focused on the following concerns:
— The impact on the trees, and the complete identification of trees significant for their age or for the spaces they create. More detail is necessary to fully evaluate this impact.
— The preservation of the spatial qualities of the Course, primarily the sense of “vastness” that was an intentional design component
— The preservation of views into and out of the course, and within the Course
— The potential impact of modifications to the Course, such as the relocation of the Club House, on the larger City Park complex.
— The proposed use of a Design Build Contract to execute the project, which will limit public involvement after the planning phase.
— The plans for on-going maintenance and the burden this project may create for the Department of Parks & Recreation.
— The completion of the State Register of Historic Places Act process, which requires any project that involves State funding and impacts historic resources be reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office.

Resource Documents
National Register of Historic Places Listing (see page 34 for City Park Golf Course)
Revitalizing the Legacy of City Park (see page 44-45 and 67 for City Park Golf Course)
Biography of Tom Bendelow, Course Designer
1933 Aerial of City Park Golf Course