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Opinion: We can’t gamble away Denver’s last piece of protected open space

Opinion: We can’t gamble away Denver’s last piece of
protected open space 1

Re: Northeast Park Hill needs opportunities and housing,” March 4 commentary

In an opinion piece published in The Denver Post on March 4th, Ty Hubbard and Norman Harris of The Holleran Group present their goals for the 155-acre Park Hill Golf Course land. Hubbard and Harris state that “we need to make sure that the most recent voices or those that come from a privileged position are not the loudest voices. Equity demands that we amplify the voices of those who have been marginalized in the past.”

Their view seems to insinuate that those who believe that protection of green space is critical, are “recent voices” or coming from a “privileged position,” whatever that means. “Recent voices” would exclude those of us who have lived in and around the Park Hill Golf Course for most our lives.

Additionally, the need and desire for open space is one that spans all racial and economic backgrounds. It is clear that use of the word “privilege” is an emotional, inappropriate and racially motivated appeal — the type that serves only to reinforce so many common stereotypes that have permeated our culture with a negative impact. There is an implication that Black people have no use for, and would not be served by natural space.

It also should be made clear that The Holleran Group stands to make a lot of money off of the development of this land. Because of this, the motivation for their piece is clear — their own financial interests. And that’s okay. But it’s fair to ask, do they care more about the community or about their own economic interests?

The Holleran Group has no major development experience — they are a new entity, formed only to take advantage of this opportunity to represent Westside Investment Partners. If they had more experience, they would know that developing 155 acres of land alone is not going to end gang violence, nor solve the complex issue of the unhoused. Affordable housing will not miraculously appear and neither will sudden economic empowerment. To the contrary, the open space has preserved affordability in the neighborhood.

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Finally, the land is currently protected by a conservation easement, prohibiting any development unless lifted by a court order. This highly contentious development plan is a human and civil rights issue. Removing the conservation easement to allow for the development of highly valuable open space will not strengthen community resilience, livability, nor increase the economic power of current and long-time residents. It will, however, aid in the continued gentrification of the neighborhood, as well as contribute to continued environmental injustices in this community.

While the Holleran Group presents some pie-in-the-sky picture of what they and Westside might do, it only takes a quick review of past Westside Investment Partners projects to see the promises made and the promises broken.

We can’t afford that gamble with our largest and last piece of protected open space in Denver.

Penfield Tate, III is an attorney at law who represented the House and Senate legislative districts for the Park Hill Golf Course land for over six years. Tash Mitchell is a native of Northeast Denver working alongside the community to authentically connect and reconnect to nature and the outdoors in meaningful ways.

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