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Three downtown parks slated for design makeover 

Trifecta park plan

click to enlarge Antlers Park - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Antlers Park

Three historic downtown parks that date to the city’s earliest days could use a facelift, especially as the character of the downtown area evolves, city officials have decided.

The city recently hired Design Workshop for a $152,151 contract to master-plan the three parks in ways that would “provide an inviting and safe experience for all users.”

Parks Director Karen Palus tells the Independent in an interview that the plan deals with small urban parks and meeting the needs of new residents. 

Palus says the planning effort would lead to a variety of uses and strategic placement of amenities in each.

All were part of the city’s original plat dated Sept. 26, 1871, and are protected from sale via deeds or benefactor requirements.

They are:

• Acacia Park, 3.67 acres, between Tejon Street and Nevada Avenue and south of Platte Avenue, serves a variety of residents and visitors, from crowds of children who flock to the whimsical Uncle Wilber fountain, installed in 2000, to ice skaters in a temporary rink erected during winter.

• Alamo Square Park, 3.67 acres, surrounding the Pioneers Museum, which once served as the county courthouse and almost was torn down during the 1970s. It hosts public events, such as the mayor’s swearing-in ceremony, Food Truck Tuesdays and the summertime Colorado Farm & Art Market on Wednesdays. It also serves as home to a stunning Christmas lights display each holiday season.

• Antlers Park, 3.3 acres, sandwiched between the old train depot and The Antlers hotel, once served as a gateway to the hotel for visitors arriving by rail. It, too, is used for political events.

All three parks draw their share of homeless people.

Design Workshop’s master plan will take into account sentiments from the public and stakeholders, such as adjacent landowners, downtown event sponsors, city departments including public works and Springs Utilities, residents and “people experiencing homelessness,” according to city bid documents.

But Council President Richard Skorman says the emphasis isn’t on homeless people — either shooing them away or finding ways to accommodate them. “We’re not going to forbid anybody from parks,” he says.

Acacia Park was last master planned in 1994, and plans for the other two couldn’t be located by city parks officials.

Master plans now are needed because more people live downtown, tourist traffic has increased and residents have evolved more toward walking and cycling, rather than motorized transportation.

“There’s a lot more need for gathering places for events,” Skorman says.

A key trigger for master-planning all three parks came in 2018 when downtown entrepreneur Perry Sanders proposed building a soccer stadium at Antlers Park, just west of The Antlers hotel, which he owns.

The city rejected the idea but acknowledged the park draws transients, and drug needles can be found strewn across the property.

“It is so hidden,” Skorman says. “There’s talk about refurbishing it and trying to connect it [with bike routes], putting the band shell back and having more public events there.”

Skorman hopes to see the city restore access to public restrooms in Acacia Park, where they remain locked, and add facilities in the other two parks as well.

“There are no public facilities [in the three parks],” Skorman says, adding people have to go into restaurants and businesses. (Portable restrooms are stationed in Antlers Park.)

“Simply stated,” Connie Perry, landscape architect with the Parks Department, tells the Independent via email, “these three Downtown parks are seeing heavy use in some locations and under use in others. Our community is growing, the Downtown is seeing more residents move in, and our community anticipates an increase in tourism/visitors.”

The public process will begin in coming months.

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