A new quarter-mile bike route runs around Mar Lee’s Garfield Lake Park, designed for children to be able to get exercise and for their parents to be able to keep a close eye on their kids.
“This is pretty much a trial. There is not a lot of parks with something like this in it,” said Deak Brown, Denver’s Bike Park Operations Supervisor. “My hopes are that this is standardized. Parks aren’t just basketball courts and baseball fields anymore.”
On Monday, representatives from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), Denver Parks and Recreation, Westwood Unidos and other organizations gathered in the park to see the new winding loop dotted with wooden ramp, to talk about how neighborhood kids helped make it happen, and to share details about a new way for area youth to get free access to bikes and exercise.
GOCO wants to connect children and their families to the outdoors through it’s Inspire Initiative. The initiative creates a pathway for youth driven projects that aim to make people spend more time outside. The organization provided funding for the bike trail through the Inspire Initiative, supplying Westwood won nearly $3 million towards an outdoors and recreation program.
“The Inspire Initiative was designed to get kids and families back into the outdoors,” said Jayson Brinkley, chairman of GOCO. “Westwood is just a great community. We were looking for a community that had a lot of momentum behind it at the grassroots level.”
The neighborhood kids exceeded expectations.
“We met with the Westwood kids. We showed them our design. We adjusted it to the way they wanted it, got them involved and the trail you see here is what came out of it,” Brown said.
The children were also involved in the process of building the bike path through the Mile High Youth Corps.
“They came and they were absolutely incredible. They worked so hard, they worked 10-hour days. They cut all of the saw, laid all of the trail mix in three days. I had that scheduled for two weeks,” Brown said.
With support from Westwood Unidos, Westwood youth have been running a bike library and repair shop two times a week this summer. The bicycle library will be relocated to Garfield Lake Park this coming Friday.
“It started because a lot of them (Westwood children) don’t have bicycles,” said Norma Brambila, the community connector for Westwood Unidos through a translator. “The kids learned how to fix their bikes, and then taught other kids how to fix their bikes. I am very excited that the youth are the ones that are working on this.”
With funding from the Rose Family Foundation and Centura, the kids were able to purchase new bicycles, which will be made available for free to people who want to ride the Garfield Lake Bike Skills Trail. People will also be able to ride their bicycle across a floating dock that will sit on Garfield Lake inside the park. Wooden docks similar to the ones at Ruby Hill Park will also be a part of the skills course. The city is in the process of purchasing these features.
“This has always been my heart and soul right here, the Westwood neighborhood. These people are so desperate to have more resources for them and they deserve it, most importantly,” said Jill Coffman, Denver Parks and Recreation Superintendent.
“Westwood is going to be a model for the rest of the city. The parks that exist, we really want to make them awesome,” said Scott Gilmore, Denver Parks and Recreation Deputy Executive Director.
“We wanted to encourage kids to have a seat at that table and you look around and you see what they’ve done and what they are going to do,” Brinkley said.