Douglas County is looking at ways to take over a Denver park located in the county, a move that City of Denver officials say could cost the county at least half a billion dollars.
Daniels Park, located between Highlands Ranch and Castle Pines, is owned by the city and known for its bison herd.
The decision by Douglas County commissioners to look into the topic comes about a month after Denver City Council voted to ban concealed carry firearms in its parks. While Denver Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Scott Gilmore said he was told this was the reason for the possible takeover, multiple calls and texts to Commissioner George Teal to confirm that claim went unanswered.
In a Monday work session, the county commissioners voted to direct legal counsel to proceed with gathering information about how to “bring Daniels Park into Douglas County ownership.” Teal and Commissioner Abe Laydon voted in favor of the motion while Commissioner Lora Thomas voted against it.
“Creating an expensive legal battle with Denver is not governing well, but is instead infusing politics into yet another decision, and I am frankly not interested in this discussion,” Thomas wrote in her weekly newsletter.
Gilmore said he’s saddened to hear about the discussion after years of working together with the county.
“We’ve always had a great relationship, and for one individual person to, for whatever political reasons he has, to try to make this an issue, to create an issue, it doesn't make sense,” he said.
Gilmore added that even if the county won a legal battle to take over the park by eminent domain, they would have to pay for the value of the land. He estimated the cost of the land to be about half a billion dollars.
“We would not agree with this," he said. "We would never move forward with an agreement to give away one of our treasured parks."
Daniels Park, a 1,000-acre piece of land given to the city nearly 100 years ago, has significance with tribes in the area, many of whom have ceremonies on the land.
The Tall Bull Memorial Ground is located in Daniels Park. The City of Denver has a longtime agreement with the group to allow use of the park.
The concealed carry ordinance the city passed can only be enforced if signage has been put in place, which has not yet occurred at Daniels Park, Gilmore said.
“I have 270 parks in Denver,” he said. “That is definitely more of a priority than any of the surrounding parks in five different counties.”
Denver owns mountain parks in several counties, including Jefferson, Gilpin and Clear Creek counties.
Douglas County banned open carry in parks and all county facilities until 2014.
Laydon said he is “pleased to start conversations” with the City of Denver about what it would look like for DougCo to potentially own and maintain the park.
“Daniels Park is in Douglas County, not the city and county of Denver, but we have been strong partners for a long time on this beautiful community asset,” Laydon said. “(It) could be a win/win for both Denver and Douglas.”
In a statement attributed to the board of commissioners, they wrote that this step is the beginning of a process that will include discussions with the City of Denver.
"This is the place to start and any speculations on what could occur as a result of discussions would be premature," according to the statement.
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