New book honors Lakewood citizens who created Belmar Park

Staff report
Posted 6/7/19

A new book released by area journalist Stuart MacPhail highlights the “David vs. Goliath” struggle that Lakewood citizens endured and won to save a large portion of the former May Bonfils Estate …

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New book honors Lakewood citizens who created Belmar Park

Posted

A new book released by area journalist Stuart MacPhail highlights the “David vs. Goliath” struggle that Lakewood citizens endured and won to save a large portion of the former May Bonfils Estate to become Belmar Park. The book, written by Stuart MacPhail, features a preface by former Lakewood Sentinel editor Dick Hilker.

Entitled “The true Story of How Belmar Park Came into Existence,” the book documents the efforts by scores of everyday Lakewood citizens to override the wishes of most of the early Lakewood elected leaders and administrative staff.

Most information about Belmar Park published by the City of Lakewood simply says, “The City of Lakewood acquired the land in 1973 and established Belmar Park.” But, as the new book illustrates, 1973 was near the end of the story. MacPhail contends that if it had not been for persistent, aggressive citizen activism, against huge odds ... Belmar would not be a park today.”

The 44-page book chronicles the”influencers” who controlled much of east Jeffco’s 1960’s and 1970’s destiny. As Lakewood was born in 1969, its key leaders saw the 200+ acre Bonfils Estate at the center of the new city as a source of future tax revenues. Many Lakewood citizens saw the site as potential natural open space and a park for citizens to enjoy for years to come. That divergence in values led to a multi-year fight that culminated in a citizen-initiated public vote. At the polls, the citizens won by better than two-to-one.

MacPhail reports on how the elegant Bonfils Mansion and some of the key land was lost during various steps of the conflict. But Lakewood still ended up with a 132-acre central park that today features a restored lake, abundant wildlife, numerous walking, biking and bridle trains and the Lakewood Heritage Center.

After nearly 50 years, MacPhail says he wrote the book as a belated way to honor the scores of Lakewood citizens without whose effort there would be no Belmar Park. The effort also resulted in a revised city leadership attitude toward saving open space for the enjoyment of Lakewood citizens.

When Lakewood was incorporated it only had 80 acres of park and open space, about three acres per 1,000 residents. Today Lakewood owns 7,240 acres of open space and park lands ... about 45.8 acres per resident, a ratio far greater than the 10.1-acre national average, according to the National Recreation and Parks Association.

The new book is available for purchase at various local book stores.

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