Park Hill Golf Course

Park Hill Golf Course represents one of the last large open spaces that could be developed in the Denver area.

The Park Hill Golf Course in Denver has been sold to a local developer for $24 million, the principals announced Thursday.

Residents who oppose the sale say their fight now shifts to the City Council, where they hope to find support for preserving the 155-acre property as open space.

The George W. Clayton Trust — managed by Clayton Early Learning, which sold the property to Westside Investment Partners, the Denver investment firm that purchased it — disclosed the sale in a joint press release.

Andrew Klein, the principal at Westside, said the firm plans to begin a “listening tour” to hear what residents say should be done with the property.

“We are looking forward to (engaging) in specific, thoughtful conversations with the community to hear their opinions about the need for open space and recreation, (and) affordable and diverse housing options for existing and new residents,” Klein said in a prepared statement.

But opponents such as former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb say the listening tour is a sham.

“They’ve already decided what they are going to do,” Webb said. “They’re just trying to put some sour cream on the top of the cake.”

Webb held a June 24 press conference in front of the shuttered golf course’s clubhouse, calling on residents to urge the City Council to preserve the property as open space.

“The fight is going to be when they decide to do the zoning,” Webb said. “That’s where the fight’s going to be.”

The sale came as no surprise. Clayton President and CEO Charlotte Brantley notified the city in a June 10 letter of the pending sale with the scheduled closing date of July 24.

In the press release, Brantley said the sale is aimed at sustaining the school, which provides care and education for children, especially those whose families could not otherwise afford it.  

“Clayton has always been clear about our need to steward this asset for the long-term financial sustainability of our programs benefiting the thousands of children we serve, and to do so with respect and regard for the community in which we operate,” Brantley stated.

The lease to operate the golf course had once been a reliable source of income for the school. But average golf revenues dwindled in recent years. The course was closed in 2018 after the city filed a permanent 25-acre storm water detention easement, as well as a construction easement that impacted a total of 60 acres through the end of 2019, Clayton officials said.

The Clayton Trust formed a citizens advisory committee two years ago and held a series of public meetings to discuss the future of the property.

They also conducted a survey of 750 neighbors, two-thirds of whom indicated they had not used the golf course in the last two years.

But Woody Garnsey, a Park Hill resident since 1971, called the advisory committee a sham, saying that 10 of its members filed a dissenting report.

Garnsey is a member of the steering committee of a group called Save Open Space Denver, which has fought to preserve the golf course as park land for the last two years.

He contends that the City Council should enforce a conservation easement that the city bought from Clayton for $2 million 23 years ago during the Webb administration.

“Once open space has concrete on it, it’s never going to go back to open space,” Garnsey said.

“Our view is that the city is becoming increasing densified every day, and if citizens don’t fight to preserve every bit of open space that’s available ... we’re throwing away the future for future generations."

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