Crown Hill proposal draws community criticism

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Residents have gathered 450 signatures so far on a petition to stop Jefferson County Open Space from building shelters, a fitness station and play areas at Crown Hill Park.

Open Space budgeted $900,000 for updates to the 242-acre park, nestled between Lakewood and Wheat Ridge at 9307 W. 26th Ave.

The updates include replacing concrete trails, converting the summer-only bathroom into a round-the-year facility and adding the features that some residents are concerned about.

The total cost for the project stands at $870,000, which is funded through the half percent sales tax set aside for open space, said B.J. Ellison, the plains region parks supervisor for Jefferson County Open Space.

The residents against the new features support the new trails and restroom, but are against the proposed fitness station, shelter areas and “nature places,” play areas that consist of items such as climbing boulders, a perch and digging area.

“The nature place is where a lot of angst has been from the public,” Ellison said. “We’ve received a mixed message. It’s a new concept. There’s two or three in the Front Range area. They’ve grown up in response to concerns of nature deficit disorder, the 30 percent obesity rate and screen time ratio of seven minutes outside and 70 in front of a screen each day.”

Lakewood resident Roberta Garrett helped start the petition to stop the new features.

“Open Space’s mandate is to preserve and protect, not build artificial play equipment and destroy open space to teach people about nature,” Garrett said. “It’s beyond comprehension to teach about nature by destroying nature. (People who visit Crown Hill) go for respite, tranquility, to see wildlife and get out in open space to stretch legs. They don’t come to expect to be entertained by artificial structures.”

Ellison said the new features will not disturb wildlife any more than human traffic already does.

“Most of the wildlife there is pretty used to human interaction,” he said. “They’re used to people and are urban residents themselves.”

The northwest corner of the park is closed to visitors March 1 through June 30 to serve as a wildlife sanctuary and the park recently added eight acres to better suite wildlife, Ellison said.

Garrett and others are concerned the shelters, which will be a table or bench that can fit up to six people, might take away from the natural setting of the open space and give it a more urban park feel.

Garrett is also concerned about liability to the county if children are hurt on the play areas.

The proposed area for the “nature places” is less than a quarter of an acre, or one-tenth of one percent of the park’s land, Ellison said.

Ellison said sometime before summer Open Space will host a public meeting regarding the updates to hear feedback on the new features.

All of the park’s construction is expected to be complete by fall of this year.

For more information about the project and to see some conceptual renderings, visit www.jeffco.us/openspace/openspace_T56_R7.htm.