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American Society of Landscape Architects


October 2004 Issue

For an Austere Time, No Little Plan
Denver forged a bold new vision for its park system. Then budget shortfalls intervened. Will the plan still be realized?

By Michael Leccese

For an Austere Time, No Little Plan Courtesy Wenk Associates

Like many city park systems, Denver's 136-year-old parks and recreation system has been revitalized in recent years. Now the 20,000-acre system may be entering a new epoch thanks to a 152-page document known as the Game Plan.

The Game Plan (which can be read on has won plaudits for its inclusive public review process and environmentally friendly strategies. Yet some Denver park advocates worry that it may overreach, particularly during a time of citywide budget cuts.

A 50-year master plan, the Game Plan seeks to meld the city's design legacy of formal parks and ornamental plantings with an ecologically sound sensibility—one that uses parks to connect neighborhoods and unify the city with the region.

Approved by the Denver City Council in March 2003, the plan is also called "A City in the Park," returning to a concept proposed by legendary Denver Mayor Robert Speer. After a 1907 visit to Europe, Speer declared, "Denver can be made one of the ordinary cities of the country, or she can be made the Paris of America."

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