Purple Prairie Clover in a native landscape


Denver Parks and Recreation's Urban Ecology program creates a more sustainable park system in the face of climate change and a growing population. By developing holistic management strategies and by implementing both large and small-scale projects, DPR plays a critical role in the city's resilience to environmental challenges. Program priorities include:

  • Expanding resilient and low-water native landscapes in our urban parks
  • Increasing biodiversity by restoring native plan communities that provide wildlife-supporting urban habitat
  • Improving ecological health of lakes and waterways 
  • Implementing sustainable best practices for native landscape management
  • Increasing opportunities for people to connect with nature
  • Highlighting Denver's diverse ecosystem, spanning from the prairie to tundra
  • Supporting resiliency initiatives in DPR's mountain parks system       


DPR coordinates resiliency projects with other city/state agencies and partner organizations such as the Denver Dept. of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), Dept. of Public Health and Environment (DPHE), Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency (CASR)Denver Water, the Mile-High Flood District, and others.

Resilience Focus Areas:

Water Conservation

Core Programs & Initiatives

As part of DPR"s water conservation efforts, the department engages in drought preparedness planning, water usage billing and reporting, data management and analysis, water conservation plan review, irrigation standards management, and research and implementation of new technologies. Additionally DPR coordinates a partnership with Denver Water, training for staff, budget management of operations, as well as Capital Improvement Program expenditures, reuse water conversions, and improving understanding of plant/water/soil relationships through the leadership of the City Park Greenhouse.

Download the Denver Parks & Recreation Water Management Plan

Download the latest advisory committee report(PDF, 3MB)

Learn more about reuse water.

Daytime Watering

If you see watering in the parks occurring between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. the following may be occurring:

  •  Irrigation Start-up:  Between April 15th to May 31st, DPR starts-up its extensive park system’s irrigation.  Start-up of irrigation often includes turning on zones to flag heads that need repair.  During start-up, you may briefly see zones turned on outside the water window.
  • Establishment Watering: Construction projects occur frequently within the parks system.  As part of many construction projects, installation of new plant material including seed or sod may occur.  Establishment watering may occur for 21 days after a plant is first installed.  During establishment watering periods, you may see zones turned on outside the water window. 
  • Water Management Programming:  DPR is building out a system of smart controllers to assist with water management.  Parks that are not yet on smart controllers must be individually visited to program.  Programming controllers accurately may necessitate Parks staff to turn on a zone shortly to correctly identify equipment and location.  During new programming, you may briefly see zones turned on outside the water window.
  • Leaks/Broken Equipment:  DPR maintains nearly 3,000 acres of irrigated land with over 8,000 irrigation heads for each Technician.  An irrigation system can be over 40 years old in certain parks.  Leaks or broken equipment due to equipment age or vandalism may occur.  Please contact 311 (720-913-1311) to report consistent leaks.  Make sure to indicate an exact location so that our Parks staff can quickly and efficiently troubleshoot and fix the problem. 

Water Resources:

Lake & Stream Management

Stream Management

The stream management approach is consistent throughout all communities in Denver. Weed management and debris removal takes place between April and October. Taller grasses may have become noticeable over the last 5-6 years due to the reduction in mowing, however, this allows more native vegetation the opportunity to outgrow undesirable invasive/noxious weeds. Taller grasses also provide structural integrity to the stream by forming a protective barrier between the flowing water and soil during storm events to reduce damage to bridges, properties and parks. If mowing is needed for weed management, this may occur only in early spring (March) and late fall (November), weather dependent.

In addition, healthy streams provide other benefits such as:

  • Reducing pollutants like road oils and fertilizers to make stream water quality safer for play;
  • Reducing speed of water to increase safety to us during storm events;
  • Promoting green and thriving streams to enhance our recreation and outdoor experiences, and;
  • Increasing biodiversity by protecting and restoring native plant communities to support wildlife and create migration corridors.

Find more information from Mile High Flood District.

Community Benefits of Stream Vegetation Management(PDF, 972KB)

Lake Management

Denver Parks and Recreation is committed to improving the ecological health of the lakes in its system.  Some improvements you many notice around the Lakes could include:

  • Riparian buffers around the shoreline - Increasing the amount of vegetation around lakes helps filter surface runoff and improve water quality.  These buffers will be designed to improve and formalize access points to the lakes for fishing and recreation. There areas are not mowed.
  • Aerators - To improve water circulation and limit toxic algae growth.  Algae blooms will continue to be monitored and controlled by Denver Parks and Recreation in coordination with the Department of Public Health and Environment. 
  • Goose fencing - To restore and protect vegetation during establishment.  
  • Noxious weed removal – Removal will include a combination of mechanical, chemical and biological methods where appropriate.
  • Bathometric Studies – Lake structures and depths will be monitored and evaluated.
  • Shoreline Repair – Lake edges may be restored to control for erosion and long term stability.  

Find more information on water quality reports from the Denver Dept. of Public Health & Environment.

Landscape Typologies

Update, as of Dec. 2022: The Landscape Typology Manual and Geodatabase will be updated in 2023 to include approximately 1,000 acres of park land that was acquired, redeveloped or not included in the original inventory phase. Download the project information sheet for more information.(PDF, 297KB)

Landscape Typology will help guide a new park and greenway aesthetic, along with a maintenance approach to move Denver toward data-driven decision making and the establishment of high functioning, low-maintenance ecosystems.

Historically, Denver’s landscape consisted of native, arid prairie and shrubland habitats lined by green waterways that drain from the state’s headwaters. Today, most of these native landscapes have been replaced by resource intensive bluegrass lawns and urbanization. Denver Parks & Recreation (DPR), in partnership with Mile High Flood District (MHFD), have partnered to re-evaluate the city’s park landscapes to better understand the ecological and human benefits they provide, as well as the financial, environmental, and cultural costs to maintain them.

As highlighted in Denver’s Game Plan for a Healthy City, DPR is committed to providing recreational, resilient, and aesthetically pleasing places for people to participate in active and passive recreation. DPR will continue to restore historic ecosystem services that enhance the health and sustainability of the park system and larger metropolitan area, including practices that will be water-smart and help support continued efforts to improve the health of local rivers and streams. With these considerations in mind, DPR and MHFD have developed Landscape Typology, a new, holistic, and data-driven approach, which will help streamline park and open space management.

Landscape Typology is designed to capture the range of plant communities present in Denver, from highly anthropogenic (human) park spaces to highly native park spaces. This range or spectrum represents a variety of ecosystem functions, habitat types, park uses, and maintenance needs which may all exist in different areas of the same park.

By evaluating the different landscape types within a park, as well as the park system as a whole, it is possible to streamline maintenance schedules, irrigation needs, restoration projects, and other activities that help keep Denver’s parks and open spaces vibrant.

Landscape Typology supports Denver’s progress on goals established under the guiding principles laid out in Denver’s Game Plan, including:

  • Making the parks system more resilient
  • Managing resources to ensure long-term health of Denver’s parks
  • Providing parks that reflect Denver’s community and cultural identity

Download the full Landscape Typology Manual
Download Appendix

Native Pollinators

In 2016 Mayor Hancock signed the National Wildlife Federations Monarch Pledge to help create sustainable practices that support the increase of native pollinating insects in our city, which is important to the health and beauty of Denver.  Pollinator species have seen an immense decline over the last decade.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has attributed some key factors contributing to this loss:

  • Increased exposure to pests/invasive species
  • Pathogens and viruses
  • Poor nutrition due to loss of foraging habitats
  • Increased exposure to pesticides
  • Lack of biodiversity

The Urban Ecology Program seeks to relieve some of these stressors by increasing the amount of pollinator habitat throughout the City and County of Denver. The types of pollinator gardens vary in design and structure to suit the many different types of pollinators that you can find in Denver.  Pollinator species you can find here in Denver include but is not limited to: 

  • Wild bees
  • Ants
  • Beetles
  • Wasps
  • Lizards
  • Birds
  • Bats
  • Butterflies
  • Moths

Want to get involved in supporting you friendly neighborhood pollinators?  Check out Denver’s Community Wildlife program to see how you can get your backyard, or even your back-porch wildlife certified and help Denver reach its goal of becoming a Pollinator City.

Resilience Projects & Programs

Quebec Medians Landscape Transformation

Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) is excited to initiate a new project in partnership with Denver Water and the Colorado Water Conservation Board aimed at adapting the City and County of Denver and parks system to a changing climate. The Quebec Median project will transform water intensive, non-functional bluegrass on four medians, between Smith Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, to a native meadow landscape.  

The 10-acre site uses an estimated 9,000,000 gallons of water for irrigation per year! The transformation project will convert bluegrass to a native prairie that’s representative of traditional Colorado landscapes and will support pollinator species while enhancing the beauty of the space and conserving more than 4,000,000 gallons of water annually.   

Once the project is complete and the native vegetation is established after 2-3 years, mowing and maintenance requirements will also be significantly reduced. DPR has hired an ecological consultant team and landscape contractor to remove the turf and establish the native prairie seed beginning this fall. The project is funded in partnership with DPR, Denver Water, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Turf Removal Program funded by appropriation of Colorado General Assembly HB22-1151. 

Download the project information sheet(PDF, 2MB)

Turfgrass Policy, Adopted 2023

DPR has developed strategies to expand resilient and low-water landscapes in areas that provide limited to no functional recreation value such as medians, steep slopes, and low-traffic areas along park walks, roadways, parking lots, landscape edges and waterways. Instead of turfgrass as the primary groundcover in these areas, drought-tolerant and native species will be planted where appropriate.

Read the full policy

Current Landscape Transformation Projects: 

  • Quebec Medians
  • City of Karmiel Park (along Cherry Creek)
  • City of Takayama Park (along Cherry Creek)
  • Harvard Gulch West
  • Rosamond Park (along Goldsmith Gulch)

Recently Completed Landscape Transformation Projects:

  • Rocky Mountain Lake Park (shoreline)
  • Ulibarri Park
  • Bear Valley Park
  • La Lomita Park

Heron Pond, Heller Open Space & Carpio Sanguinette Park

Sanderson Gulch Outdoor Classroom & Pollinator Gardens

In September 2018, the Grandoozy Music Festival was held at Overland Golf Course in the Overland neighborhood, with a portion of the the ticket sales allocated to improvements in the adjacent neighborhood. After garnering input from the community about what they would like to see prioritized with these funds, the neighbors prioritized the creation of pollinator habitat, garden, and an outdoor classroom at Sanderson Gulch Park. 

Learn more about this project.

City of Chennai Landscape Transformation and Restoration

The Urban Ecology team is restoring 2.9 acres of native landscape along the southern and eastern edges of the City of Chennai Park. The team will also explore a landscape transformation for approximately one half-acre of non-functional bluegrass turf into native prairie with grasses and wildflowers. These efforts will create a “Uniquely Denver” experience that should reduce irrigation needs, create wildlife habitat, improve water quality, and provide the neighborhood with better access to nature.

Download the project information sheet(PDF, 2MB)

CIty of Karmiel/City of Takayama Landscape Transformation

Denver Parks and Recreation will implement a 9.5 acre landscape transformation. The project includes a full irrigation system replacement, priority irrigation zones for existing and new trees, approximately 9.5 acre turf conversion to native prairie, addition of pollinator habitat, and formal garden bed improvements. This conversion is estimated to save 3 million gallons of water.

Download the project information sheet(PDF, 5MB)