In the last 100 years, Denver's historic Five Points neighborhood has held many identities. In the early 20th century, it functioned as the city's aristocratic center. Then it became known as one of America's richest jazz scenes throughout the 1930s and 50s (so much so, that it would earn the nickname “Harlem of the West"). But more recently, Denver’s gateway between the city and its eastern suburbs has struggled with a reputation for crime and neglect.
Gosia Kung, Denver resident and founder of Walk Denver, hopes to reverse that trend—starting with the May 11 event, Better Block Five Points. Kung, a Polish architect who never learned how to drive growing up in Europe, was shocked by the motor-centric American lifestyle when she migrated to the United States in 1997. Switching to a lifestyle that revolved around driving came with a lot of changes she didn't enjoy—less exercise, little interaction with her community, and a lack of safe, communal neighborhood destinations. She founded Walk Denver as way to promote more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure in the city, something she believes improves communities and local economies.
Better Block Five Points will transform the neighborhood's Sonny Lawson Park into a pedestrian-friendly family destination. Volunteers will install benches, plant trees and flower beds, and paint a street mural, among other personal touches, to create a welcoming recreational space. The event's street mural—which will be created by volunteers—was designed by a homeless artist found through local art laboratory RedLine. In addition to the park's physical makeover, the day of the event will feature fun, family-friendly activities—including a chess tournament, jumping castle, and chalk art—to showcase what an ideal park might look like on a regular basis.
Kung's organization held a similar event at Jefferson Park last year, but she says the Five Points event is more focused on "access to a healthy lifestyle and recreational opportunities" for this specific community. "We are focusing on the park, which has been kind of neglected," Kung says. "We are hoping to demonstrate through improvement of the environment that it can become family-friendly and will have impact on the surrounding community. Even in terms of improved economic opportunity, local businesses, and overall community health.”
Get Involved: Helpful hands are needed to ready the park on May 4 and 10, as well as on the day of the event, May 11. Sign up for the event's many volunteer opportunities here or contact Erika Nelson-Conrad with volunteer-related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Image courtesy of Denver Parks and Recreation