Montbello Open Space Park and ELK Education Center

12680 Albrook Dr, Denver, CO, 80239, USA

Project Partners: 

Environmental Learning for Kids – For almost two decades, ELK has been cultivating a passion in science, leadership, and service for a diverse community of learners. ELK’s programs introduce, immerse, educate, and mentor youth from ages 5-25, shaping our future leaders and engaged citizens of tomorrow. Denver Parks & Recreation

What started this project: 

Environmental Learning for Kids, The Trust for Public Land, and Denver Parks and Recreation are working together to transform a once-neglected property into a natural open space and outdoor learning laboratory. In 2011, ELK approached The Trust for Public Land and asked for our help to make their dream of an education center in the heart of Montbello a reality.

Goals: 

The primary goal of this project was to transform a vacant lot into a natural open space in one of Denver’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Studies show that low-income, underserved, urban neighborhoods are at a substantial disadvantage when it comes to safe parks and natural open spaces. A neighborhood without inviting outdoor space that supports and encourages play and a child’s innate desire to learn is an empty place. When a person has to leave his or her neighborhood to experience nature, they develop the impression that nature is always something “out there,” not part of their reality. Lack of access leaves distressed areas at an additional disadvantage by limiting exposure to potential interests and careers; to physical activity and play; to discover themselves and their world.

Process: 

In 2011, ELK approached The Trust for Public Land about the property located on Albrook Drive. In 2012 The Trust for Public Land purchased the property and began working with ELK on a public engagement process that resulted in a master plan for the park. This plan was completed in house by The Trust for Public Land in 2013. In 2014, The Trust for Public Land transferred ownership of the property to City and County of Denver Parks and Recreation Department. Partners then worked together to select and hire a design team for the project. The Trust for Public Land supported the design of the park while ELK supported the design of the building.

Results: 

This park is unique in Denver’s park system and represents the power of unique partnerships. The new open space park features a short grass prairie ecosystem, green infrastructure to manage stormwater and improve water quality, a walking path, nature play areas, art by local artist Andy Dufford, an outdoor classroom, and a climbing feature. ELK is using the park as an outdoor classroom and regularly hosts stewardship activities and educational experiences at the park.