Through the work of a number of partners (Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation, the Park Hill Thriving Communities Initiative (PHTC) at Denver Environmental Health and other community partners), a $500,000 renovation of the City of Axum Park in Northeast Park Hill was completed in June 2011. These renovations included a perimeter path, a walkway through the park, two pavilions with four picnic tables and a barbecue pit, a playground with an obelisk climbing structure, a basketball court and two game tables. To promote the park and its healthy living features, fliers were distributed to eight public and private Park Hill schools in the parent take home folders as well as at a recreation center and four churches.
Over the past four years, the Center for Research Strategies has served as the evaluator for the Park Hill Thriving Communities Initiative (PHTC). One of our efforts was to conduct comparison data analysis and write a final report showcasing the findings of two observation assessments of park use that Denver Department of Environmental Health conducted in September of 2009 (prior to construction of the renovations) and two years later in September 2011, after the renovations were completed. Trained observers from the Denver Department of Environmental Health assessed park use by men, women and children as well as how heavily the park was used, what activities users engaged in and how much they used the new facilities.
Between the two years, a five-fold, or 500%, overall increase in park use was documented, with significant increases by men, women and children. Women and children showed a nine-fold increase, underscoring how the park had become family-friendly.
At the start of the project in the summer of 2007, the park was identified by local residents as a “trouble spot” and an underutilized community resource. Working together, Park Hill community residents, city agencies and other partners led by the PHTC sought to improve the park’s facilities. PHTC organized neighborhood meetings, developed a photovoices exhibit depicting unsafe conditions inside the park and presented City officials with the results of a survey of residents living within a mile radius of the park. Renovations became feasible after voter approval for the Better Denver Bond Project in 2007, with additional funding provided by the City of Denver through capital improvement bond funds. Support and resources were also provided by Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs, PHTC and LiveWell Colorado, the organization that provided PHTC with a multi-year Community Initiatives grant.
The Denver Department of Parks and Recreation will maintain the park and its newly constructed features throughout the years, as it does for all Denver area public parks. The hope is that the local Park Hill community will continue to use the park and that it remains a safe gathering place for individuals and families for years to come.