Littleton City Council endorsed South Suburban Parks and Recreation District’s concept design plan for Jackass Hill Park, directing city staff to continue working with the district on further design details.
The resolution to support the plan passed on March 21 in a 5-1 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Gretchen Rydin dissenting.
South Suburban teamed with a landscape design firm last year to create a new site plan after neighbors expressed concerns regarding after-hours park usage, noise levels and fireworks. A grass fire at the park in March 2022 brought more neighbor concerns to the city and district’s attention.
The new design plan, developed through a process that involved community engagement, aims to discourage misuse of the park and enhance its accessibility.
At the meeting, several public commentors expressed concern with the new plan, related to both design and management.
Desire for more park management
Sergio Gutierrez, who lives near the entrance of the park, said the new plan should involve management, not just a new design.
“I think if you invest that much money into upgrading the park without an enforcement mechanism, you’re really going to invite some of the prior activity that was happening,” he said. “It's just going to be a nicer place for people who want to do bad things to do those things.”
He noted that the reduction in park hours last year, which made it open from sunrise to sunset, helped reduce problematic activity. He asked city council to consider keeping those hours in place.
“Without the hours, you don’t have the enforcement mechanism to tell people to leave the park,” he said.
Paul Marshall, another community member, asked for a management plan that encompasses public safety concerns as well as resident’s desires. He shared a story about being told to leave the park after sunset on the Fourth of July last year when he was hoping to watch fireworks with his family.
“It seems like with being a block away from the park, we should be able to once a year enjoy some fireworks after sunset,” he said. “My ask is to partner together and ask for that management plan with reasonable enforcement.”
Jena Dickey, whose home backs up to Jackass Hill, presented a letter signed by 67 of her neighbors. The letter requested a meeting with South Suburban leadership and city council representatives to speak about permanent park hours, ranger patrols and an exclusion to the park hours for July 4.
Design element concerns
Other public commenters expressed specific concerns about aspects of the concept site design, including distaste for the concrete paths, native plants, and concern about the placement of the nature play area near South Prince Street.
Chris Hancock, who said she has had to call the police on people driving in the park, said she hoped the nature play area would not be included.
“Where it's located right along Prince Street, I think that’s a dangerous spot,” she said. “And I don't think play area was a high priority item from the surveys that were done.”
She also expressed concern that additional native plants would not be maintained well if they were added to the park.
Her husband, Andy Hancock, said the plan seems to have gotten bigger than it needed to be, when citizens only wanted to address public safety, the setback on the west side of the park and drainage.
“Those were the three main issues that we asked to be addressed and it kind of morphed into this big plan,” he said. “I just wanted you to be aware that, in my opinion, most of the public comment was to leave it essentially as it is.”
Equity of park investments
Iftin Abshir, the final public commenter of the evening, asked council to consider whether investing in Jackass Hill Park was an equitable decision.
“I want to request that you to take a moment to pause and consider why some neighborhoods’ parks in Littleton are more deserving of this equitable access to nature than others,” she said. “Is it money? Voter turnout? Education levels? I'm not going to speculate, but the difference in response is glaring.”
Before council voted, Rydin expressed a similar concern. She said she was not comfortable supporting the resolution without an equity strategy that outlines how the city chooses where to put their park investments.
“We really do need to be talking about equity across the board in our resource allocation, and that includes our park strategy,” she said. “Until I see that strategy and we have that discussion, I'm not comfortable rubber stamping this.”
District 3 Councilmember Stephen Barr said the proposed plan includes the elements that he wants to see in increasing equitable park access throughout the city’s portfolio of open space. That said, he agreed that thinking about investment equity should be “front and center” in council’s core mission.
Public Works Director Keith Reester said the city is actively working towards involving equity in more decisions regarding open spaces. He added that he does not think investing in Jackass Hill Park would take funds away from supporting other Littleton parks.
Mayor Kyle Schlachter added that the city has invested in several other parks in recent years, including Ida Park, Promise Park and Berry Park.
To the more specific design concerns, Reester said city staff will work with SSPRD and the consulting firm to incorporate community suggestions.
“As we get into that construction design phase, that’s when a lot of these suggestions will be vetted out in how they fit into the plan,” he said.
Community members can submit additional comments at https://gameplan.ssprd.org/jackass-hill-park-site-plan?tool=news_feed#tool_tab. SSPRD will have public comment at an upcoming board meeting on the topic and will make the final decision in adoption of the site plan.
If South Suburban adopts the plan, they will begin to develop construction drawings to be completed in 2023.