The plans come after months of outreach from the parks service, which included an in-person community meeting in June and an online survey that ran for most of May.
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South Suburban Parks and Recreation — which operates 168 parks, open spaces and facilities in the south metro area — unveiled new plans for Jackass Hill Park in Littleton during a community meeting Sept. 29.
The survey found that a sizeable slice of respondents wanted to see little to no change to the park. Of the 428 respondents, more than 46% said the park is "fine as it is." A separate question, asking respondents to describe their "vision for the future of Jackass Hill Park" found more than 31% said "leave the park exactly as it is."
There was little appetite amongst respondents for new additions such as play areas, sports courts or public art — with all those suggestions receiving single-digit support. Most supported more panoramic viewpoints with benches and soft surface walking paths. The majority of respondents, nearly 67%, said they wanted the park to have a "natural/native landscape."
“We felt like we heard a pretty consistent message from you all," said Mark Taylor, principal at the Architerra Group — the landscape design firm hired for the project.
Speaking to a crowd of dozens inside the Inn at Hudson Gardens, Taylor unveiled the latest proposals from the firm, which seek to maintain the park's character while modernizing it with new amenities.
Along with preserving and even adding new variety of native vegetation, the plans would alleviate foot traffic around certain areas by building a new, concrete loop path throughout the entire park that would be less than 5 miles.
A concrete path, Taylor said, would make the area more accessible for people with disabilities or less mobility as well as ensure the area can be accessed year-round, as concrete will fair better in various weather events.
But the plans do also call for some smaller, soft material paths that will jut out from the main concrete loop and allow park-goers to explore more of the area. A ranch rail-style fence in some areas would also help maintain foot traffic flow and protect parts of the park from damage.
Architerra's framework would also see the park's main vantage point on its southwest side pulled back by about 30 feet — and a small divet created in front of it — to prevent onlookers from seeing into nearby homes, with backing up against the park's slope. A second vantage point at the park's northwest end could also be made, according to the plans, with new seating as well.
More controversial proposals, such as a parking lot — which saw community members for and against — may also move forward. Taylor said his firm is currently considering a small parking lot for eight to 10 cars located off Sunset Drive — the road which cuts through the park.
This, he said, would be built near an access ramp and further increase the park's accessibility, something Taylor said was a major issue he heard from community members.
Other updates could include artistic signage, entrance markers and natural "exploration" areas for children — such as stepping stones or wooden logs. Taylor said addressing residents' concerns around fireworks, noise and loitering would be more challenging.
“These are not simple issues, they’re pretty complex," Taylor said. "It’s not as simple as ‘let’s just put up a fence and then it all goes away.’”
According to the May survey, comments around concerns of vandalism, and fire hazards were common. Nearby residents of the park have been raising the issue of fires for years, with several incidents of fireworks in or near the park leading to panic.
Most recently, a small grass fire broke out at the park just feet from residents' homes in late March — which Littleton police believed was the result of a bottle rocket firework that was ignited. Residents who spoke with Colorado Community Media at the time said it was far from an isolated incident and that fireworks have been a common nuisance in the area.
David Sprunt, who lives near the park on Sunset Drive, said he's been hearing fireworks at the park for roughly the past five years, though it's been "more often than it used to."
"I remember thinking there goes another one," Sprunt said about the incident in March when he heard a loud noise before seeing the flames appear feet from his home.
Taylor said he hopes the new updates — and barriers — in the park reduce the likelihood of such incidents moving forward.
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