By Raetta Holdman
DENVER (CBS4)– More than 100 years ago, city leaders designed Civic Center Park to be the heart of Denver.
It’s a mission the Civic Center Conservancy has upheld the last 15 years. Now, a new executive director is taking the reins.
Scott Robson spent the last several years working for another nonprofit, before that, he was the Director of Parks under then-Mayor John Hickenlooper.
“I fell in love with the parks system as a whole across the city of Denver,” he said.
“I really felt compelled to come back to the city with this opportunity with the Conservancy and get involved with parks, particularly this spot in the heart of downtown Denver.”
Robson points out Civic Center is significant, it’s the only National Historic Landmark space in downtown Denver.
“From a modern standpoint, this really continues to be the festival, the events space for the city,” said Robson.
“It’s a great flowing space that is beautiful from the architecture of the Greek theater to the flower gardens and everything in between.”
But sometimes it’s the space in between that is problematic.
“Currently a lot of services are being provided in the park by faith-based organizations and other nonprofits, which are much needed services, but it’s difficult for those services to overlap with what we’re trying to do here for the general public all at the same time,” is how Robson describes the conflict.
That’s why he wants the Conservancy to be a leader in the conversation.
“We really want to be at the table with our social service providers, whether that’s Denver’s Road Home or our library and city officials and our faith-based organizations to be a thought leader about how we improve some of the homeless and transient issues, not just in Denver, but specifically here in Civic Center Park.”
“These are problems that have existed for decades now so they are not going to be an easy fix,” he said. “These are really tough issues to work through but I do think there is public space and private space, church space in the downtown core that can provide some of the services and not have quite as much of the weight fall on Civic Center Park to be that place.”
And there is other work to be done in the park. Denver voters approved a bond that could mean big improvements at the Greek Amphitheater.
Robson has big visions for what could happen.
“The historic Greek Amphitheater could draw national acts but would also be available for everything from the Colorado Symphony and Ballet to graduation from East High School here downtown and everything in between.”
That would mean upgrades from everything from sound and lighting to bathrooms, maybe even a shade structure that could be moved.
The Conservancy wants to do more fundraising in the next couple of years to help cover that ambitious plan.
But, Robson wants to make sure the park fulfills that mission of a place for all of Colorado to come together.
“From a design standpoint and a philosophical standpoint, it has always been to play that role as the space for public dialogue, debate, protest and celebration”
That’s where events like Civic Center Eats, Civic Center Moves and Independence Eve come into play.
The Conservancy has activities scheduled in the park on 250 days.
Robson promises even more excitement for Independence Eve this year. For the first time, there will be beer and wine gardens, one in the Greek Amphitheater, the other by the McNichols Building.
And the fireworks display will be a bit longer.
It’s the fireworks that really has Robson looking forward to Independence Eve.
“My favorite thing is that moment in time where the 101st Army Band strikes up that note, everything goes quiet for just a minute, they strike into song and that first firework goes off above the City-County Building. It gives you goosebumps every year and will again this year, no doubt.”
HOW TO WATCH
Watch a live stream of Independence Eve on CBSDenver.com. The coverage starts at 8 p.m. and runs until 9:45 p.m.