BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
In the spring of 2016, the High Line Canal Conservancy (HLCC), whose mission is “to preserve, protect and enhance the 71-mile legacy Canal — in partnership with the public,” initiated a drive called, “71 Miles Supported by 71 Founding Partners”. The campaign included recognizing those who gave or pledged $25,000 by having their family name engraved on one of 71 sandstone mile-markers along the Canal. The plan succeeded. Commitments have been received for all 71 miles, resulting in donations and pledges to the HLCC of $1,775,000 from individuals, families, and groups of neighbors. Those donations are being used to leverage jurisdictional partner funding dedicated to long-term planning and protections for the Canal. The names of founding partners are listed on highlinecanal.org/our-partners.
On August 5, Suzanne Moore, Greenwood Village’s parks, trails, and recreation director, requested and received agreement for GV to participate in funding the cost of directional signs along the Canal. Then she showed the city council a mock-up of the planned mile markers and Councilman Dave Bullock expressed his objection, saying ““For the most part, I think the Conservancy has done a really good job….But I have to say that this move that they’ve done here is quite distressing to me because for an organization whose primary objective was to preserve the unique character, they basically commercialized the High Line Canal.” Council Member Anne Ingebretsen agreed, saying, “At what point does it stop? I don’t think it’s any different from what you see on the sides of buses, advertising….I think this is a mistake…I think that the majority of people who…use that canal…they’re not there to look at commercials. This is just commercializing the High Line Canal.”
Dave Kerber, who, like Ingebretsen, represents GV district 2, said, “Denver Water doesn’t have the right to put them (the mile-marker signs with donor names) up just because they own the land…We are the…sovereign that owns the land…Denver Water owns the area. I don’t know if they’re sovereign, I don’t know if they’re like the Papal States or what….I’m with Anne and Dave (Bullock) that naming rights for our signs just rubs me the wrong way…”
No other members of city council spoke to agree or disagree. In response to a request for clarification from City Council Member Tom Dougherty, GV City Attorney Tonya Haas-Davidson made it clear that the mile-markers with donor names were legal and permissible under the law and GV’s sign code.
We asked Harriet LaMair, executive director of the HLCC, about the three GV city council members’ expressed concerns. LaMair told The Villager,“Greenwood Village residents along with their mayor and council have been tremendous partners in our work to preserve, protect and enhance the High Line Canal. With their support, the nonprofit High Line Canal Conservancy has provided critical leadership through this collaborative and multijurisdictional effort to protect and improve all 71 miles of our regional legacy. As the only organization dedicated solely to the High Line Canal, we are deeply appreciative of the generous philanthropic support that is helping ensure the Canal is one of our region’s premier green spaces for all citizens for generations to come. Over 3,500 local citizens attended public meetings and their number one request was for improved and consistent signage along all 71 miles. We look forward to continuing our work with Greenwood Village, Denver Water and the hundreds of thousands of private citizens who cherish the Canal!”
None of the other 11 jurisdictions along the 71-mile span of the Canal have objected to having founding partners’ family names on mile markers. GV officials met with the HLCC between August and October to address city council members’ concerns.
On October 28, the GV City Council unanimously approved a written agreement with the HLCC that contains a single commitment from each of the two parties. It states that the city will allow the HLCC to place founding partners’ names on the (five) sandstone mile markers on the portion of the High Line Canal that runs through GV. The HLCC “agrees not to commit any portion of the Canal within Greenwood Village’s corporate boundaries in any manner as part of any future fundraising campaigns or agreements without the express written permission of the city council.”
In its five years of operation, over 2,000 donors have contributed to the HLCC, representing each of the 11 jurisdictions that the Canal touches, from rural Douglas County to Green Valley Ranch. According to Lindsay Moery, HLCC’s director of development, “the investment of significant private dollars leverages public dollars and commitments.” In the year 2018 alone, 76 percent of all funds raised by the HLCC were from “individual donations, foundation grants, special events and other,” with 24 percent coming from government.
Public funds are being used for neighborhood bridge enhancements, trailhead improvements, underpasses and other capital needs. Conservancy funds have been put toward Canal-wide programs such as canopy care, signage and recreational, educational and stewardship programs, and leading comprehensive planning, most notably the 4-year effort to produce The 400-page Plan for the High Line Canal, a multi-jurisdictional plan that is being touted nationally for its creative approach to repurposing the cherished old canal for stormwater management as a green infrastructure park benefit.
The most important role of any conservancy, according to a 2015 study called “Public Spaces/Private Money” by the Trust for Public Land, is fundraising, particularly from the private sector. The Trust for Public Land is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization “that helps state and local governments design, pass, and implement legislation and ballot measures that create new public funds for parks and land conservation.”
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