Denver’s New Freedom Park Selected as a “Frontline Park” by City Parks Alliance
New Freedom Park located in Denver, CO, has been named a “Frontline Park” by the national urban park advocacy organization City Parks Alliance.
Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.
“We selected New Freedom Park for recognition because it exemplifies the power of partnerships to create and maintain urban parks that build community and make our cities sustainable and vibrant,” said Catherine Nagel, Executive Director, City Parks Alliance. “We hope that, by shining the spotlight on this park, we can raise awareness about both the necessity and the promise of these kinds of partnerships to spur investment in our nation’s urban parks.”
The park, which will soon be known officially as New Freedom Park, was built on a two-acre vacant lot in an east Denver neighborhood that is home to hundreds of refugees from countries like Burundi, Somalia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Nepal, most of whom live in affordable housing communities adjacent to the site. Before the park was built, the weed and broken glass-strewn vacant lot on East 13th Avenue had become the site of a small community garden and a gathering place for residents. There was clearly a need and enthusiasm for the space to be developed into a larger garden and even a park, but the city did not have adequate resources for design and construction, so the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation approached the nonprofit organization The Trust for Public Land about taking on the project.
In 2010, The Trust for Public Land, along with local nonprofit and business partners, led a community design effort to gather comments from residents, holding a series of meetings to determine goals for the park. To overcome language and cultural barriers, pictures and visual aids were developed so that residents could easily communicate which elements they would like to see included in their park. The final design included a playground. Along with increased recreational opportunities, the new park boasts an expanded community garden helping address the need for fresh food.
The park officially opened in 2012, and today, every part of the park sees heavy use. In the garden, residents grow fruits and vegetables on 50 plots outfitted with a new irrigation system. After the school buses drop off students in the afternoon, the soccer field and playground buzz with activity, while other members of the community chat and relax on a ring of benches under the shade of a cottonwood tree.
"We see New Freedom Park as the first of a generation of new and improved local parks designed to meet the needs of today's Coloradans," says Tim Wohlgenant, Colorado State Director at The Trust for Public Land. "The power of genuine collaboration with the community to create a park that people really love and regularly use is evident in New Freedom Park. It really is a park for the 21st Century."
“We are proud of the collaborative spirit of those who joined together to create a much needed open space for this very unique community in Denver,” said Lauri Dannemiller, Manager of Denver Parks and Recreation. “New Freedom Park exemplifies the passion for parks shared by all Denver’s citizens.”
New Freedom Park is being featured on CPA’s website, www.cityparksalliance.org, during the month of December. The “Frontline Parks” program is made possible with generous support from DuMor, Inc. and PlayCore.