Shaping Our Future by Remembering Our History: Protecting Our Parks

Next time you see former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, give him an appreciative and hearty high five for fighting Mayor Michael Hancock’s plans to pave over Park Hill Golf Course with cement, asphalt and lots of development. When Webb was mayor, he made sure that Park Hill Golf Course would remain open space in a neighborhood lacking in open space opportunities. 

Dennis Gallagher

Webb promised in 1993 to add more park space to Denver’s crown, adding to the “City Beautiful” movement Mayor Robert Speer began in Denver. Webb’s administration even made sure that Denver bought more land around Red Rocks Park to make sure that Jefferson County commissioners could not grant more building permits encroaching on Red Rocks. Ned Burke, of blessed memory and North Denver neighbor, served as Webb’s point person on the Red Rocks and other open space projects.  

One angry Jefferson County commissioner even complained to me that he was “tired of Denver buying up open space in Jefferson County.” I told him Denver could not risk Jefferson County granting more development rights so close to Red Rocks. We simply had to protect the 300 foot sandstone rock formations and 200 mile panoramic view of Denver and the plains beyond.

“How would you like it If I had the Jefferson County commissioners buy open space in Denver?” he threatened.

“If you can find the open space in Denver, I will get the support for our city to support you,” I said. “However, I will remind you, we already have a beautiful park in North Denver named Jefferson Park.” He humphed and got real quiet.

By the end of his tenure as mayor, Webb added more than 2,350 acres to parks citywide. That’s more than old Mayor Speer’s record. And he always asked me if  “you Anglos will remember that fine accomplishment?” 

I told him I will always remember his outpacing old Mayor Speer on park space. “But Mr. Mayor, please be careful about including me in with the Anglos. We Irish pride ourselves on being a different tribe from the Anglo-Saxons.”

Good luck, Mr. Mayor, on our battle to save Park Hill Golf Course. Thanks for standing tall for the people.

The Honorable Dennis Gallagher is a former city auditor, city councilman, state senator and state representative. He’ll be sharing thoughts and stories from North Denver’s past and future in his reoccuring column in the North Star. 


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