BY FREDA MIKLIN
At the Feb. 5 regular city council meeting, CHV staff pressed city council to take steps to open Quincy Farm (QF), a 17.5-acre intact farm at 4400 E. Quincy Avenue bequeathed to the city by Catherine “Cat” Anderson upon her passing in 2016. The property has a conservation easement arranged by Anderson with Colorado Open Lands in 2007.
Emily Black, CHV parks and recreation director, pointed out at the meeting that Anderson intended the property to be available for the public. It has been two and a half years since Anderson died, and the property has only been open to the public one day since then, during an open house last Aug. 25.
A Quincy Farm Committee (QFC), chaired by Mayor Russell Stewart before his election in November, was established in 2015, successor to the Quincy Farm Visioning Committee (QFVC) which met from 2012 to 2014. City council member Katy Brown served on that committee. The goal of both groups was and is to ensure that the property is used for the benefit of CHV residents, subject to the goals and restrictions of the conservation easement.
Susan Maguire, interim director of the Cherry Hills Land Preserve (CHLP) told city council that her organization was excited that CHV is finally looking at opening up Quincy Farm on a regular basis and that CHLP “wanted to reiterate its desire to work with the city to help maximize the city’s benefits from that facility,” primarily by helping to find volunteers, provide educational programs and fundraise.
QFC member Klasina VanderWerf said that the committee views this property based on its unique traits, including the conservation easement that governs its uses. She noted that the property “has two tenants for the next few years and it has neighbors who are getting used to the idea that they live adjacent to a public property.” VanderWerf told city council that the QFC believed that the city should open the public trail initially for limited hours and limited days, with a volunteer on hand to educate users and provide feedback to the committee and city staff.
Gordon Rockafellow, who lives near Quincy Farm, spoke on behalf of QF resident Jerri Neff, whose residence is at the front of the driveway at the entrance to Quincy Farm. He said she is concerned about security. Another neighbor, Howard Schirmer, told city council that when Cat Anderson asked for his agreement to her plan years ago, “The vision that we had was that this was going to be a rural area and pretty much kept the way it was when Cat was there.” He continued, “What seems to be happening is that we seem to be developing a city park…quite a bit different than what we envisioned when we gave up quite a bit of our rights to bring this project about.”
Lucinda Greene, QFC and CHLP member, emphasized that the intent of the conservation easement was “to preserve and protect in perpetuity the conservation values of the property.” Greene reported that the committee “has had several months of rather discordant meetings and discussions around this issue,” and that the QFC had held a public input meeting. The recommendation of the committee was for “a soft opening on a trial basis.”
Emily Black reminded city council that there was currently no visitor access to Quincy Farm other than the ability to reserve space in the main house for meetings. She asked for guidance about what to tell grant funders, private donors, and community members who asked when and how they would be able to visit the property. Black explained that both the QFC and Parks, Trails and Recreation Commission (PTRC) had discussed the issue at two meetings each. She added that the city manager, public works director, and parks operations supervisor had all met with the tenants of the property to discuss “ways to balance tenant privacy with the realities of living on donated public land.”
City staff and the PTRC were recommending that the nature trail be open daily from sunrise to sunset, unattended, similar to other open spaces in CHV. The Quincy Farm Committee was recommending that the trail be open only on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and staffed with a volunteer.
Black said that CHV had to get permission from Colorado Open Lands to open the property and that staff believed it would allow the city maximum flexibility if it requested approval for the more extensive days and hours that staff and PTRC had identified, since the city would not be required to open the property for all permitted hours, thus city council could reduce those days and times as it saw fit. Stewart, previous Quincy Farm Committee chair, noted that submitting the public access plan to Colorado Open Lands was not a requirement but rather best practices in order to avoid future issues.
After lengthy discussion, city council voted to request approval from Colorado Open Lands to open the property, including the nature trail, daily from dawn to dusk without an attendant. Councilors Al Blum, Katy Brown, Mike Gallagher and Dan Sheldon voted yes. Councilor Afshin Safavi voted no. Councilor Randy Weil was absent due to illness. All agreed to set an opening date and implement the plan once they receive the necessary approval and revisit the issue of days and hours after they have experience with having the property open for a few months.
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