Report on the October 10th session to the Denver Parks and Recreation Advisory Board
Helen Kuykendall, Parks and Rec manager for the Civic Center project led the meeting. Members of the Parks and Rec advisory board, representing all of the City Council districts and mayoral appointees introduced themselves. Because the meeting was their monthly meeting, they discussed other parks project of interest as well as the Civic Center plans. Dennis Smith, representing District 7 asked the only question about the project, “Will the Civic Center Conservancy provide funds for the park even if the Libeskind plan is rejected?”
Unfortunately, no one from the Conservancy answered the question. The Chairman of the Advisory board announced that “no decision has been made about the plan”, and he wanted to make that clear to the audience.
The room was nearly filled and every person wanting to comment had an opportunity. The overwhelming majority of those who spoke were against the project. Three people spoke in favor of the Libeskind design. One felt it successfully implemented the recent Civic Center Master Plan; one admired the sculptural aspects of the design.
Two announcements were made concerning additional meetings: The Park People meeting on November 15 (though the location is still not confirmed - check our blog and we will post it as soon as we know). Dennis Humphries from the Civic Center Conservancy announced that on December 6th there will be a display of 8 new ideas/plans for Civic Center submitted to the Conservancy (5 of these ideas were printed in the Rocky Mountain News recently). The display will be at the Colorado History Museum.
Helen Kuykendall followed the procedures from previous meetings. There seems to be no recording of the meetings other than the synopsis of the audience comments she writes on a flip chart.
The comments we heard included:
A discussion about the “derivative” nature of Daniel Libeskind’s design by an architect/engineer who also flatly stated the bridge was “ unbuildable” and would have to be much heavier. He provided some photos of Calatrava bridges to make his point about the derivative nature of the design.
Others spoke about their desire to see the park restored and more elements of the original 1917 design built. As with other meetings, the love and respect that audience members feel for Civic Center Park is palpable.
An artist in the audience said she felt that the process was a sham and she believed they would go ahead no matter what the public felt. Helen Kuykendall said that was not the case, but the artist said she felt it very strongly, no matter what the “official” word was.
Carolyn Etter, former Co-Manager of Parks and Recreation, reminded the Advisory Board that there are very clear procedures laid out in their manuals for new park construction and she urged the board members to read and follow them.
Others mentioned activities that could activate the park, without building new structures that overwhelm the park. The inappropriateness of water features in our frequent drought cycles was brought up. One individual pointed out that drinking fountains don’t work in any park and the Department would be better off trying to fix what they have rather than making plans for improvements that would cost a lot to maintain.
Perhaps the most eloquent statement came from an individual who works for the city but was speaking as a citizen, not as a representative of the department or the city. He spoke of walking through the park daily and enjoying the views and surroundings. He mentioned the current exhibit of the American Friends Service committee of boots representing those who died in Iraq. He pointed out that the “civic” nature of the space allowed for this kind of exhibits and how important that was. The park functions as a civic space for the city and the state, and filling the space with new objects and structures will lessen opportunities for civic gatherings and expressions.