The Big Con: The Platte To Park Hill Stormwater Project And The Destruction Of Another Denver Park

Denver residents have grown used to it. City planners and public relations specialists suddenly appear and announce in one or more neighborhoods that they are gathering “robust public input” for a wonderful new project that will benefit everyone, but especially the poor or semi-poor and/or abused women, kids et al. But time is short and the project must be approved as soon as humanly possible or bad things will happen.

If the lumpenproletariat appear to be raising a ruckus which is reaching the local and alternative media, the story is given to a clueless Denver Post reporter who writes a bland, lifeless piece that generally toes the administration line with a bromide or two thrown to the citizenry. The mayor’s developer friends then go do what they intended to do in the first place. A lawsuit is then filed by outraged citizens in the Denver District Court system where the judges are essentially lifetime bureaucrats dressed in black robes who appear to quake in fear of the corrupt and largely incompetent City Attorney’s Office.

So began the destruction of the open space at “Lowry Vista” and “Hentzell Park” along with another dozen or so citizen rip-offs in favor of the Mayor of Denver Michael Hancock and his developer friends and in particular his handler-in-chief, Oakwood Homes’ CEO Pat Hamill.

Now it’s the Park Hill neighborhood’s turn in the barrel as Denver is proposing to take 30 acres and 280 of 872 trees on City Park Golf course for an all of the sudden 100 year flood crisis project that must be approved immediately or (laughably) irreparable harm will occur to the most vulnerable of Denver’s citizens and neighborhoods.

A 100 year storm water detention pond is a truly ugly thing to behold. All trees and bushes and other vegetation is stripped away other than some limp grasses. The lifeless hole is then filled only for relatively short periods of time when filthy, badly polluted water and trash flow into the hole. The water recedes away while the filth, trash and chemical pollutants remain. The subsequent clean-up is relatively minimal since a new deluge will appear soon enough.

Jamie Price is the outside program director for the “Platte to Park Hill Stormwater” project. The project is, in theory, to help control the stormwater flowing north and west from Fairmount Cemetery down to the Platte River. Of course, Denver is, in fact, in a semi-arid desert area with only 16.38 inches of precipitation a year and thus not a great deal of stormwater to worry about.

Moreover, the real problem is that the existing pipes are too small for today’s increased surface run-off. Those pipelines are not being enlarged so whatever flooding exists will continue on unabated. But that is just not the way to look at it according to Denver’s Department of Public Works that is funding the project with help from CDOT and the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District.

Mr. Price declared to Westword that “We get a lot of positive feedback, that this makes total sense.” The City’s Deputy Chief Financial Officer Gretchen Hollrah told a neighborhood organization, “It is my fervent belief that in this project the city is acting as an advocate for neighborhoods to deliver the project as fast as we can to provide stormwater relief.”

The trouble is that the neighborhood rubes have been ripped off by Mayor Hancock and the City Council too many times and they are not quite as easy to fool these days.

No one is ever quite sure whether people like Jamie Price and Gretchen Hollrah affirmatively know that they are lying to us or they simply just don’t care what the truth is. Or maybe they are being conned themselves since the fewer people who really know what’s going on the better and neither appears to be exactly the brightest crayon in the box, notwithstanding, in Price’s case, an engineering degree.

Pro neighborhood Councilman Rafael Espinoza queried why the City of Denver was paying for this since it is CDOT’s responsibility to provide 100 year flood protection. But no answer was forthcoming. Park Hill is represented (if that verb can be used) on the City Council by Albus Brooks. It is said of Mr. Brooks that he need not actually attend Council meetings, but simply have placed in front of his seat a sign declaring, “I enthusiastically support whatever the Mayor says!”

But then who is really behind this land grab? To find out, as Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein during the Watergate scandal, simply — “Follow the money.”

The city and state apparatchiks at first claimed that the Platte to Park Hill Stormwater project and massive I-70 expansion were “totally unrelated.” As that became more and more untenable to say with a straight face, it changed to a claim that the two were “related but not inseparable.” Eventually it will be acknowledged that the two are one and the same, but by then it won’t matter and it will be too late for the Park Hill neighborhood and what’s left of the golf course.

The land along the new I-70 corridor will soon become incredibly valuaEditorial Pat-Hamill 5-16ble. The massive new concrete areas will cause severe stormwater problems that must be addressed. Detention pond areas are worthless for a developer so they must be pushed upstream into central Denver where public park land can be seized for the eventual enrichment of the few. Who, pray tell, will be the biggest beneficiary? If one had to make a wild guess one could look to the last two words of the third full paragraph above.

— Editorial Board

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