Buchtel Centennial Park

As of 10/10/12

Buchtel Boulevard Parkway Project History of Traffic Islands, Buchtel Centennial Park, Historic Buchtel Boulevard Trail, bike lanes, sidewalks, and Prairie Park. This ongoing Buchtel Boulevard Project began in 1976, and is sponsored by the University Park Community Council (UPCC), Denver, Colorado. Diana Helper, originator and project chairperson.

HENRY BUCHTEL, 1884-1924 was University of Denver Chancellor/”Savior,” Colorado Governor, Minister of Trinity Methodist Church (built the present church), lover of natural beauty. Historic Buchtel House is at 2100 South Columbine Street, two blocks south of Buchtel Boulevard, built for the Chancellor and his family. It is presently the home of the current DU Chancellor.

In 1924 land for Buchtel Parkway was given to the City by DU in Buchtel’s memory, “For the enjoyment of the community.” Memorial trees were then planted on both sides of the Boulevard, from S. Colorado Blvd. west to S. Downing St. This was designated a City Parkway and opened in 1926. It figured in UP’s development, providing a natural area of trees, natural grasses, and wildflowers.

In 1976 for the Colorado ’76 Centennial Project, UPCC sponsored Diana Helper’s design for Bucthel Trail, three Xeriscaped traffic islands at S. University Blvd., and small triangle park- later Buchtel Centennial Park. The project was accepted by the city for exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. UPCC President John Rogers, Councilman Paul Hentzel and many UP residents helped with this project

In 1977 Traffic Islands, originally built with brick by UPCC residents, were re-installed with bomanite (with a cobblestone look) at the city’s request, fearing the bricks would loosen and be a traffic hazard. Moras Shubert and Sam Huddleston on UP did the plantings, and a crew of UP folks watered the plants to get started, and continued to maintain these islands regularly.

In 1986 Buchtel Centennial Park design was complete and construction began. This was the 100th Anniversary year of UP, and the park was also to honor Henry Buchtel. Theresa Taylor, George Hirshfeld, and Councilman John Silchia were of great assistance. The park was finished and dedicated

In April, 1987, with a party on site. It has a rock, sundial, and a plaque and quotation of Henry Buchtel:

“We seek to understand the truth about everything under the stars and above the stars.”

In 1992 Designation as a National Historic Place was granted the Buchtel Trail area (100 ft. width), S. University Blvd. to S. Monroe St., by Colorado Historical Society (CHS), indicating eventual addition of RTD-owned portion of the site when no longer needed by RTD. Committee working on this extensive process supported by UPCC, included Tammy Weissman, Councilwoman Mary DeGroot, and Barbara Norgren of CHS. (This designation limits some development when Federal funds may be involved.)

In 1994 Funds for the Trail, which was still an unpaved foot-path, were designated by the city, with good work by the committee, Dick Bjurstrom, and Councilwoman Mary DeGroot.

In 1995 maintenance of the Traffic Islands was taken over by the city, for citizen safety concerns, after 19 years of care by UP residents, who continued to help anyway, as they felt more care was needed.

In 1996 the Trail was Paved. A native-plant landscape was designed by Alan Rollinger, but put on hold until the city could procure the entire area from RTD. The Trail was widely used from the beginning.

In 1998 the Official Denver Parks sign was installed, “Historic Buchtel Boulevard Trail,” at Buchtel Blvd. and S. St. Paul Street, using funds the Parks Dept. feared we would lose if they were not used.

In 1999 RTD announced that its Light Rail plan would not use RTD land along Buchtel Trail. Neighbors had opposed such a proposed route for a number of years. UPCC sent a letter to the city stating UPCC’s wish to have this RTD land added to the historic trail area, and to create a park on the old UP Lumber Yard property adjacent to the Trail. No reply was ever received from the city.

In January 2000 we learned that the Lumber Yard land was quietly sold to DU in late ’99 for a 600-space pay parking lot for DU vehicles including sports and rock concert event attendees. UP concerns: safety, traffic, noise, pollution, and harm to Trail area. Our committee later worked with DU on parking lot design, landscaping, and preservation of the lilac hedge along the south edge of the parking lot.

In June 2000 the UPCC Neighborhood Framework Plan was published including the Buchtel project with plans for an open space park, and in August the UPCC Buchtel Plan was updated by Sam Huddleston, John Ross and Diana Helper, and presented to the Dept. of Community Planning and Development.

In October 2000 UPCC requested of RTD that the open space along the Buchtel Trail not be used as a staging area during T-Rex construction, and received written granting of this request from RTD.

In 2001 Bike Lanes were striped along both sides of Buchtel Boulevard, and no Parking signs were added to the south side of the parkway (already no parking on north side). We again advised the city that we wished the north side to remain uncurbed, to afford more water to the trees. City agreed.

In January 2003, $250,000 was granted for Buchtel Trail Area Preservation (Winter Park/Intra West deal). There also is bond money for improvement, and a Buchtel fund in the UPCC treasury. Committee investigates ways to preserve mountain view from the Trail area. Await City Ownership of RTD site.

In 2004 UPCC voted to be a test RNO for the city’s Pedestrian Master Plan. The south side of Buchtel Blvd. is listed as a priority route accessing light rail.

On October 22, 2004 the Open Space area was officially dedicated by Mayor Hickenlooper, RTD, Parks, Public Works, Schools, Diana Helper, and Councilman Charlie Brown who was instrumental in making this happen. Many residents attended this event on site, including school children, and longtime UP committee folks. At last the city owned this property, upon effecting a land-trade with RTD.

In 2005 UPCC voted officially on Feb. 2 to support open space prairie along Buchtel Trail.

In 2006 the name “Prairie Park” was agreed upon, petitions signed and on November 9 presented to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board which unanimously approved UPCC’s natural open space plan.

In 2007 City Council voted unanimously on Jan. 30 in favor of the name Prairie Park. Later Parks project manager Britta Herwig prepared and presented a plan to the Buchtel committee, and again to residents at the UPCC general meeting in Feb. 2008. All favored natural grasses and educational native-plant path. This three-year project is all funded by Parks/Rec.

In 2008 UP’s Small Area Plan was completed, with all components of Buchtel project. Spring planting began on Prairie, bollards and some paths constructed. Planned completion in 2011.

In 2009 increased Buchtel traffic shows need for safer crossings. This is not a part of the original Buchtel project, but has to do with getting to/from the Trail area. The Buchtel Blvd. Pkwy. Coalition requests measures be taken to grant pedestrians and bikers safer passage. Ongoing effort needed. Another ongoing effort regards enforcement of right-of-way use rules along parkways.

In 2011 the Better Denver Bond Project’s Buchtel portion began with construction of sidewalks on the S. Side of Buchtel from S. Monroe to S. St. Paul. In Sept. the S. Columbine to S. Josephine portion began, with sidewalk through Buchtel Centennial Park which is enlarged by closure of E. half of E. Jewell St. adjoining, making safer intersection with Buchtel/Columbine. Park to change to natural grasses.

In Oct. 2011 “At Prairie Park” was added to the official Historic Buchtel Blvd. Trail sign, by Parks.

In Nov. 2011 the Buchtel Cent’l Pak/redo of Columbine/Buchtel intersection, completed. Red concrete poured along the Parkway to our dismay; grass had been promised. Park grass planted. A truck drove across the park where street had been, prompting fencing, cones, signs and later bollards (alley).

In May 2012 – Park grass replanted; first planting did not grow. Irrigation checked. Good growth.

May-Sept. 2012 we began research on how to get the planned Native Plant Educational Walk accomplished in Prairie Park. The Parks Dept. has few funds for this project; UPCC will be responsible for much of the work. Parks advises that this 14 acres is dedicated historic prairie open space. Newer residents need to know the history and importance of the prairie; perhaps a priority is an informative sign. Signage is needed for the garden plants. Idea of art for the prairie is suggested; contacts made with DU and the City. A request for community garden is referred to UP School which is enlarging its gardens.

Oct. 16, 2011 staff from Denver Parks meets at the Prairie with interested residents, arranged by Jennifer Engleby. Some topics: status of the plan currently, signs for history and for plants, selection, planting and maintenance of native plant educational walk, time line, weed control, wild life, possible partnerships, role of UPCC in this project.