Platte Farm Open Space is a 5.5-acre stretch of land at 49th Avenue between Logan and Pearl Streets. Several generations of Oletskis and Kowalczyks have lived there since the 1880s. Their homes, horse stables and barns predate Globeville’s annexation to Denver in 1902. Grandfather clauses in Denver’s zoning ordinances allow these rural buildings to still exist.
The park was once an eyesore, part of an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site with lead and arsenic contamination from nearby smelters. It was also a dumping ground for trash and stolen cars.
“After joyriders finished with them, they lit them on fire and watched them explode,” longtime resident Dave Oletski said.
Nonetheless, the neighborhood saw an opportunity to transform the area into open space with native grasses, trees, wildflowers, storm water containment and walking trails. In 2006, Globeville citizens and the Globeville Civic Association No. 1 approached Groundwork Denver – a nonprofit that works to create green spaces in underserved communities – to work with on the planning and implementation of the project.
“Platte Farm Open Space is the epitome of a community-led project,” said Cindy Chang, the executive director of Groundwork Denver. “The residents of Globeville had a vision for a park that anyone could enjoy. This was unique because the community was at the table for almost every design meeting, almost every construction stage, and they even helped decide which kinds of trees would be planted. They were involved in the details.”
City policies also helped Platte Farm.
“More recently, the city committed to having open space within a 10-minute walk of any resident of Denver,” Chang said. “Platte Farm Open Space allowed them to hold to that commitment in Globeville.”
In November 2018, the Denver City Council accepted a $550,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to purchase the land from various landowners, including the city, Xcel Energy and the Burlington Railroad. Groundwork Denver, which helped raise funds for the project, enlisted City Councilwoman Robin Kniech to corral the right players, bring them to the table and get this park done. The most dedicated and persistent participants were Globeville citizens.
On Sept. 18, 2020, the dream was realized, complete with a ribbon-cutting celebration. “It’s an idea that came from the residents,” Kniech said. “It was their vision in their backyard.”
Mary Lou Egan is a fourth-generation Coloradan who loves history. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.