Monarda fistulosa in the Central Park Water Conservation Garden

Denver Parks and Recreation's Resiliency 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.  Project focus areas include:

  • Expanding resilient and low-water landscapes
  • Conserving energy and resources
  • Improving ecological health of waterways 
  • Implementing sustainable best practices
  • 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       

The Resiliency program coordinates their work with other city and state agencies, and partners such as The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE), Denver Water, the Mile-High Flood District and others. 

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

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.


Summer 2020 Irrigation

Irrigation is active in all Denver parks this year, and we are irrigating to maintain tree, shrub and turf health within our irrigation budget. We are balancing our irrigation repair and maintenance program with reduced staffing, so irrigation technicians must also help with other park maintenance activities.  Irrigation repairs are also hampered by shortages of irrigation parts as a result of supplier and manufacturer shutdowns due to COVID-19.

The summer season has been hotter and dryer than normal.  The seven Denver Parks’ weather stations throughout the city show average rainfall of 3.5 inches for the irrigation season so far (April 15 to July 20), which is more than three inches below historical normal.  Temperatures have been four degrees above normal for the month of July in the Denver area.  During periods of high temperatures, extended wind events, and low precipitation, some turf may go dormant and not appear as lush green.  You will see some brown spots in parks.

Our irrigation team is addressing needed repairs, programing schedule adjustments, and addressing vandalism issues as quickly as possible given these difficult conditions. Thank you for your patience.


Lake & Stream Management

In coordination with the Urban Drainage Flood Control District (UDFCD) and Public Works Wastewater, the Office of the City Naturalist and the Resiliency team assist in the assessment, prioritization and management of lakes and stream systems in Denver Parks. UDFCD is a special district who partners with the City and County of Denver on many types of floodplain management efforts; including managing stream systems such as Cherry Creek, Lakewood Gulch and Weir Gulch. Their purpose as a special district is “To reduce flood risks by promoting healthy stream systems”. 


Stream Management

The stream management approach is consistent throughout all communities in Denver. Weed management, debris removal and limited mowing takes place between April and October. Taller grasses may have become noticeable over the last 2-3 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.

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 on UDFCD.

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. Goose fencing - To restore and protect vegetation during establishment.  
  4. Noxious weed removal – Removal will include a combination of mechanical, chemical and biological methods where appropriate.
  5. Bathometric Studies – Lake structures and depths will be monitored and evaluated.  This may lead to dredging in selected locations.
  6. 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

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 Urban Drainage and Flood Control District (UDFCD), 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 UDFCD 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 Resiliency 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.

Projects & Programs

Resiliency Master Plan

The Resiliency Program is working alongside the new Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, Resiliency and other city agencies to develop a citywide, comprehensive Resiliency Master Plan. 

Resilient Communities Youth Workforce

Denver Parks & Recreation was awarded a Resilient Communities grant through Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) as part of the My Outdoor Colorado program. The grant will fund a new youth workforce program to support DPR’s Resiliency program and Game Plan goals of creating a parks and recreation system that is resilient to our growing population and changing climate. The program will employ local youth to work in Denver parks, providing an opportunity to learn about green jobs and gain applicable skills in the green jobs industry.

Youth participants will work on projects that address resiliency in parks and assist with maintenance needs resulting from workforce reductions due to COVID-19 budget cuts. Projects may include but are  not limited to: noxious weed removal, lakeshore restoration, tree planting, flower bed maintenance, wildlife management, and trail maintenance. As part of the program, Denver Parks has committed to offering training opportunities for program participants which will be spread throughout the course of the season. 

The GOCO grant will fund a new position on the resiliency team, and help to cover youth salaries for the grant partner groups. Grant partners for 2021 are Mile High Youth Corps, Teens Inc/Teamworks, Lincoln Hills Cares, and Groundwork Denver. The program is currently funded through 2022. 

Learn more.

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. 

We are now looking for feedback on the concept designs for these pollinators!

The portion of Sanderson Gulch Park that is receiving the pollinator garden, outdoor classroom, and trail improvements is approximately 12 acres. It is located across from Godsman Elementary School, bordered by Florida Ave. to the north, S. Zuni St. to the west, Raritan Ave. to the east, and Gunnison St. to the south. 

Virtual Public Meeting 1: Thursday, Sept. 17; 2020 | View the meeting recording

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