Denver’s Historic City Park Golf Is Threatened


Denver’s Historic City Park Golf Is Threatened

Denver’s Historic City Park Golf Is Threatened
Jun 20, 2016
Jacqueline Lansing

Built adjacent to Denver’s City Park by legendary golf course designer Tom Bendelow, the 136-acre City Park Golf opened in 1913. With its inspiring vistas and tree-lined greens, the course was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a component of the Denver Park and Parkway System in 1986. But in April 2016, the course was selected as the site of a 50-acre dry detention pond, a flood-control measure proposed by the City and County of Denver and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) that would reconfigure the historic course and remove up to 280 of its trees.         


Located about one mile east of downtown Denver, City Park Golf occupies a rectangular parcel of land donated to the public by the City Park Dairy. Laid out as a public venue by Tom Bendelow, the renowned Scottish designer known as the “Johnny Appleseed of American Golf,” the course is part of Denver’s Park and Parkway System. Planning and development of the system started in the nineteenth century and over the decades included the work of Reinhard Schuetze, ex-Governor Evans, Edward Rollandet, Mayor Speer, Charles Mulford Robinson, George Kessler, S.R. DeBoer, and Olmsted Brothers, among others. Frederick Ameter designed the course’s first clubhouse, situated in the northwest corner of the parcel, in 1918. Five years later, the clubhouse was enlarged and remodeled in the Pueblo Revival Style, and was replaced by a new structure in 2001. Bendelow originally designed the eighteen-hole course with sand greens, which were replaced by grass in 1928. The topography of the course drops sharply to the west, producing exceptional views of the Denver skyline and the Rocky Mountains, while groves of fir, cedar, pine, and spruce envelop the greens and tees.

City Park Golf Course, Denver CO - Photo by Ashley Doherty, 2016


Spurred by the upcoming expansion of Interstate 70 East, a controversial below-grade highway that has prompted opposition from a wide range of Denver’s citizenry, the City has moved quickly to execute plans (“The Platte to Park Hill Storm Water Project”) for stormwater control measures in the Lower Montclair Basin. The primary components of the plan are a detention pond and an open channel that would connect to an outfall after running through Denver’s historic Cole neighborhood, situated between City Park Golf and the South Platte River. But as the Denver Post reported, the greatest beneficiaries of the flood-control measures would neither be the neighborhoods expected to bear the burden of the invasive projects, nor the citizens whose parkland would be forfeited, but rather would be the highway project itself and other areas of Denver slated for redevelopment. Moreover, the loss of parkland would be sorely felt in Denver, where green space is particularly precious. Research by the Trust for Public Land, summarized in its ParkScore program, shows that Denver’s parkland, expressed as a percentage of the city’s total acreage, amounts to only 8%, well behind New York (21%) and Boston (17%), for example, and less than half that of comparably sized Portland (17.8%). 

In an eight-to-three vote cast in the early hours of June 14, the Denver City Council approved a large increase—some $206 million assessed to property owners city-wide over a five-year period—in storm-drainage fees to fund the Platte to Park Hill flood-control project. On the day of the Council meeting, former Colorado Attorney General J. D. MacFarlane filed a lawsuit to halt the City’s plans, claiming that they are at odds with the City’s charter and its zoning regulations, and that they represent a misuse of public parkland.    

How You Can Help:

Contact the following individuals and insist that they act to protect the historic design of City Park Golf Course, a nationally significant landscape:

The Honorable Michael B. Hancock, Mayor of Denver
1437 Bannock St.
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: 720-913-1311

Members of the Denver City Council:

1437 Bannock St., Rm. 451
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: 720-337-2000

By e-mail:

Mr. Rafael Espinoza, District 1

Mr. Kevin Flynn, District 2

Mr. Paul Lopez, District 3  

Ms. Kendra Black, District 4

Ms. Mary Beth Susman, District 5 

Mr. Paul Kashmann, District 6

Mr. Jolon Clark, District 7

Mr. Christopher Herndon, District 8 

Mr. Albus Brooks, District 9 

Mr. Wayne New, District 10

Ms. Stacie Gilmore, District 11

Ms. Robin Kniech, Council At-Large

Ms. Deborah Ortega, Council At-Large

About the Author:
Jacqueline Lansing, MBA, RPA, LEED Green Associate, has a master’s degree in forest science and extensive experience managing both natural and developed properties. She is a longtime resident of Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood and a patron of City Park Golf Course.

City Park Golf Course, Denver CO - Photo by Ashley Doherty, 2016