Those wanting to use Kittredge Park — specifically next to Bear Creek — are being asked to go to a nearby park instead to play on the creek bank.
“Until we develop some solutions (to Kittredge Park), we are encouraging folks to enjoy Bear Creek via O’Fallon Park one mile east of Kittredge,” Tom Hoby, director of Jeffco Open Space, said. “It has access to a nice section of the creek.”
Hoby provided an update to Jefferson County commissioners on April 13, saying JCOS wants to meet directly with community members to provide accurate information to this controversial issue, since sometimes information gets distorted on social media. He hopes JCOS officials will be allowed to speak at the May Kittredge Civic Association meeting.
Last spring, a new owner moved into a house on the south side of Bear Creek, and said she owns the property on the north side of Bear Creek that the public for decades has used for a play area as part of Kittredge Park. She said those using the creek for recreation are trespassing on private property, and she has put ropes along her property line with signs that say, “Residential Quiet Zone: Please Be Respectful,” “No Trespassing, Keep Out,” “Private Property: Residents and Invited Guests Only.”
Closing off the play area by the water has incensed area residents, causing a firestorm on social media because they don’t understand how the land could be private property, and they believe the property is part of Kittredge Park and should remain a spot for families to gather and play in the water.
While the 2.5-acre park is owned by Jeffco Open Space, it has been leased by the Evergreen Park & Recreation District for decades.
Hoby told the commissioners that EPRD was the “front-facing organization” on this issue since it has the responsibility for managing it.
“That was not clearly understood until a recent conversation,” Hoby said. “They have those responsibilities.”
EPRD has been without an executive director since November, and the newly hired executive director doesn’t start until May 23.
Despite what park-goers believe, this is not just a matter of finding the line between private and public property, according to Matt Robbins, spokesman for Jeffco Open Space. He said it was a legal issue.
“I don’t think this is a discussion of the boundaries,” Robbins said. “I believe it’s a discussion of the access. There’s more to it. A survey doesn’t get us any closer to the findings. It’s a far more robust investigation than drawing a line in the sand. It’s about access, it’s about history and all of those things.”
Robbins said Open Space and EPRD officials met with the property owner this week, and the conversation was cordial, though solutions weren’t reach.
“These solutions don’t happen overnight,” he said.
While property owner Taralyn Romero declined to comment for this story, she told the Canyon Courier last September: “When we purchased the property, we did not realize we were purchasing the most coveted, precious place for the town and community members who live here. We didn’t realize folks have been using this for a long time. Once we realized that, our goal has only been to find a fair framework to restore balance for the property and the community.”
She said in September that she was concerned about liability if someone gets hurt while playing in or along the creek and about how the property is being overused.
“We want to restore it and prioritize the land’s long-term needs over the short-term needs,” Romero said in September. “The land is dying and cannot handle the traffic. It’s being destroyed. We want shared accountability.”
Romero clarified in September at the Kittredge Civic Association meeting that private use meant Kittredge residents, while those attending said they thought it meant only Romero and her friends.
Chris Kellogg, the new president of the Kittredge Civic Association, said the organization was trying to stay as neutral as possible, hoping that a resolution is found for the best interest of everybody involved.
County officials said last September that they were researching where the property lines are now compared with the amended plat map for Kittredge that was created in 1920, noting that in all likelihood, Bear Creek has moved — probably several times — in the last century.
“I see two outcomes,” Kyle Newmyer with Jeffco Open Space said. “They own the creek and some portion of the land north of the creek that people assume is part of the park or the property line moved with the creek because (the legal description) says the property line is to the middle of the creek. There’s some language that makes it muddier. Did the creek move in 101 years? Probably. That (1920) plat doesn’t represent today’s reality.”