Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.
New Freedom Park was built on a 2-acre vacant lot in an east Denver neighborhood that is home to hundreds of refugees from countries like Burundi, Somalia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Nepal, most of whom live in affordable housing communities. Before the park was built, the weed and broken glass-strewn vacant lot on East 13th Avenue became the site of a small community garden and a gathering place for residents. There was clearly a need and enthusiasm for the space to be developed into a larger garden and even a park, but the city did not have adequate resources for design and construction, so the Department of Parks & Recreation approached The Trust for Public Land about taking on the project.
In 2010, The Trust for Public Land, along with local nonprofit and business partners, led a community design effort to gather comments from residents by holding a series of meetings to determine goals for the park. To overcome language and cultural barriers, pictures and visual aids were developed so that residents would easily communicate which elements they would like to see included in their park. The final design included a soccer field and top-of-the-line playground. Along with increased recreational opportunities, the new park would boast an expanded community garden to help address the need for fresh food.
The park, which will soon be known officially as New Freedom, opened in 2012 and every part of it sees heavy use. In the garden, residents grow fruits and vegetables on 50 plots outfitted with a new irrigation system. After the school buses drop off students in the afternoon, the soccer field and playground buzz with activity, while other members of the community chat and relax on a ring of benches under the shade of a cottonwood tree.
For more information on New Freedom Park, please visit: