Knee-high weeds choke one hill. Massive power lines march through the newly trimmed grass. Railroad tracks create the southern and eastern border. It may not be much to look at, but this 5.5-acre tract in Globeville (at 49th and Grant streets) is about to become the Platte Farm Open Space—and it’s been a long time coming.
In 2006, some local residents decided this area had been a dumping ground for too long. Trash and used needles littered the ground. Abandoned cars rusted out. The neighbors started talking with a city council member, the neighborhood association, and, eventually, Groundwork Denver, a nonprofit that focuses on connecting communities with healthy living practices. The project—turn the barren stretch into greenspace—was just the kind of thing Groundwork does. They set about getting the various landowners—Xcel, the city of Denver, and private owners—to talk about landscape sketches, trail possibilities, and more.
Like so many of Globeville’s revitalization efforts, what seemed like an easy sell at first proved difficult. The land had been contaminated with toxins from the nearby metal-processing Asarco plant. Some of the dirt had been scraped and replaced with clean soil; other parts had been “capped,” meaning new dirt had been dumped on top of the contaminated stuff. Then there were questions of who would maintain the space. Or finance it. “Everyone thought it was a good idea,” says Tangier Barnes, Groundwork Denver’s director of community planning, “but no one was coming to the table to actually help do it.”
Undeterred, Groundwork continued drawing up plans and seeking funding opportunities, while preaching to everyone they could that the park would become a reality. Finally, in 2012, councilwomen Judy Montero and Robin Kniech applied some political pressure and got all the parties to come together for talks. “It was a matter of Robin saying, This isn’t a ‘if this happens’ conversation, it is a ‘when this happens’ conversation, so let’s just figure it out,” Barnes says.
The goal is to break ground in 2016. To do so, Groundwork Denver hopes to finish its capital campaign soon to fully fund the project, which includes plans for short prairie grassland, soft surface trails, and a play area. Barnes heralds the open space plan as one of the “low-hanging fruit” projects that can happen quickly to make Globeville a more livable neighborhood, a concern often raised by residents at planning meetings. “They ask the city about what we can get done now to impact us; this is part of that,” Barnes says. As a resident once told her: It will be a bit of country in the middle of the city.