Crowd Gathers At City Park Ahead Of Controversial Plan

By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER, (CBS4) – Residents enjoyed one more round of golf on Saturday after the course at City Park officially closed this week so construction can begin on a controversial project.

It would cut down hundreds of trees in order to collect storm water and protect homes from flooding.

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“Is the fight over?,” asked Denver resident Christine O’Conner earlier in the week. “Absolutely not.”

Protestors of the Platte to Park Hill Project gathered at City Park Wednesday for a vigil to mourn the decision to move forward and take down so many trees.

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While they acknowledged this was a major setback, they still have hope they can save these trees.

Residents attending the event also said the plan to plant more trees won’t make up for the environmental impact developed over decades.

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“How long does it take to regrow a 75 year old tree? The answer is pretty obvious,” Rachel Garfield, a Denver resident, told CBS4 on Wednesday. “It takes 75 years.”

A judge decided in October that crews could begin work in November, as originally planned.

But opponents hope they can change the minds of local leaders as well as get them to redesign the plan.

“Both the governor and the mayor have committed Denver and Colorado to reducing greenhouse gases,” O’Connor added.

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The $300 million project would store floodwater in order to protect homes in nearby neighborhoods.

Residents at the vigil have questioned how much it will help those houses,and if it is necessary to drastically alter the park.

They are pursuing a federal lawsuit that may help slow down the process.

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Fencing had not gone up as of Saturday, and there has been no date announced for chopping down the trees.

The plan calls for 260 to be cut out of the 850 in the park. They are already marked with yellow tags.

City staff have said they plan to plant many more as part of the completion of the project.

“I think I really care about good government and I’ve watched this carefully,” said O’Connor.

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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