Parks, art and a green event

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Do you know that a very special park exists in District 4 that honors the 200,000 Jews and Ukrainians who were massacred by Nazis in World War II? Babi Yar Park is a Denver park located near East Yale Avenue and Havana Street in the Hampden neighborhood. It was created in 1982 by community members as a Holocaust memorial and is a reminder to us all to come together in opposition to oppression and violence. Denver’s Babi Yar Park honors the lives lost and teaches a universal principal: when one group of people is harmed as others remain silent and indifferent, all humankind suffers.

When the Russians attacked Ukraine in February, community members asked to come together in support of Ukraine in Babi Yar Park. On March 27, hundreds of people came to the park for an Interfaith Gathering for Peace in Support of the Ukrainian People. We were joined by representatives of the Ukrainians of Colorado organization who shared a prayer with us. Native American Rick Williams of the Ogalala Lakota and Northern Cheyenne tribes performed a blessing, and Rabbis Ray Zwerin, Emily Hyatt and Aharon Sirota all led prayers and shared inspirational words. It was a very special event and so meaningful to our Ukrainian friends who live in Denver. People were — and still are — encouraged to donate to Ukrainians of Colorado and Project Cure to fund much-needed medical supplies for Ukraine. I was honored to help coordinate this important event in solidarity with Ukraine.

If you’ve never been to Babi Yar Park, you should visit it. It is a very special and meaningful park. According to The Cultural Landscape Foundation, the memorial is laid out around a centralized pathway configured as a Star of David. The park is entered through a narrow passage between two inscribed black granite monoliths. A path ascends a berm plated with cottonwood and willow, before descending into a bowl-shaped amphitheater which has a circular platform at its center. The Grove of Remembrance consists of 100 lindens planted in a grid, representing the 200,000 people killed at Babi Yar during WWII. A ravine reminiscent of the location where victims were buried in Kyiv runs along the western edge of the site. It is crossed by a narrow bridge with high wood walls, which evoke train cars used by Nazis to transport prisoners. The edges of the site are planted as a prairie with native grasses, yucca and prickly pear.

On a lighter note, my team and I are working hard with community members to advocate for a future southeast Denver skate park and BMX track. We are hoping that it could be somehow incorporated into the existing abandoned drainage infrastructure adjacent to Kennedy Golf Course, which is located at 10500 E. Hampden Ave. There’s much to do before this becomes a reality, but we are hopeful that Denver Parks and Recreation’s Outdoor Adventure and Alternative Sports Master Plan will recommend a skate park and recreation hub, and conduct a feasibility study to determine if the site is realistic or not. In the meantime, we are planning a one-day pop-up skate park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 5. Everyone is welcome to join us and learn about the sport from professional instructors. We’ll have some loaner equipment as well as music and a food truck.

I am thrilled to be hosting our fifth annual South by Southeast festival on Aug. 20 in Bible Park, 6802 E. Yale Ave. As always, we will have live music, food trucks, games, a beer garden, local vendors and more. The festival is free, for all ages, and a certifiably green event, so plan on walking or biking and bringing your own refillable water bottle.

Parks and sustainability remain top priorities for the District 4 team. I am proud to have sponsored the Bring Your Own Bag ordinance as well as the Opt-In for Cutlery and Condiments bill. This legislation won’t reverse climate change but will reduce the use of single-use plastics and bring awareness to people about the incredible amounts of single-use plastic waste that not only litters our waterways, natural areas and cities, but also generates dangerous greenhouse gasses in our landfills. So many of us don’t think about the tremendous amount of waste that is dumped at the landfill or know that landfills are a major contributor of methane, which is 25 times more potent than CO2. To reduce the amount of waste that goes to the landfill and increase recycling and composting, Denver City Council will be voting on a proposal in June that will provide free weekly composting and recycling for residents and charge a fee for the black bin that is destined for the landfill. You can learn more about the proposal here: https://bit.ly/3O3gODt.

Bringing more public art to southeast Denver is another top priority. Have you seen the colorful art featuring animals on intersection electrical boxes? If so, that’s when you know you are in District 4. We are delighted that artist Andrew Woodward, who is a Denver native and lives in the Wellshire neighborhood, has been sharing his 50 State Animal collection with all of us. They bring a smile to everyone as does the new mural that was recently unveiled at the Hampden Branch Library. “Four Harmonious Friends of Denver” was created by Tsogo Mijid, Eriko Tsogo and Mongolian students who live in southeast Denver. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check it out. We are also anticipating a new sculpture near the Shoemaker School and Cherry Creek trail this summer, as well as some new public art in Bible Park in the next year or so.

Kendra Black represents District 4 on Denver City Council. She can be reached at kendra.black@denvergov.org or 720-337-4444.

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