Get to Know Your Greenway
Paco Sanchez Park
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By: J.J. Clark
SPREE Staff Writer
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Paco Sanchez Park is in the middle of an exciting transition into an enormous local neighborhood open space that is home to one of the new west-bound Lightrail lines being developed in Denver. Although still under construction, this new Lightrail line is representative of a long tradition of Denver’s development – where the water goes, we go.

The park runs along Lakewood Gulch just west of downtown Denver. For being so close to downtown (just two and half miles from Confluence Park), Paco Sanchez Park is a shockingly large open space. There are paths on both sides of the gulch, and hills that rise from the valley to the surrounding neighborhoods. These hills are great for sledding in the winter, running in the summer, or finding a nice quiet spot for a picnic. It is connected to Rude Park, Martinez Park, and Lakewood Gulch Park, making an enormous greenbelt with trails, playgrounds, basketball courts, baseball fields, and plenty of open space to picnic, play Frisbee, build a snowman, sled, or just lay around and soak in some Colorado sun.

This valley, carved out by Lakewood Gulch, has long been the site of train tracks, and their most recent use will be for Denver’s Lightrail. The city of Denver has a long tradition of building roads and transportation paths along waterways. Interstate 25 runs directly in the South Platte River Valley, earning it its nickname, 

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the Valley Highway. Speer Boulevard runs parallel to the Cherry Creek from the Cherry Creek Mall into Downtown Denver until it passes Confluence Park where the Cherry Creek ends and becomes part of the South Platte River. There are hundreds of miles of trail along Denver’s waterways that runners, walkers,bikers, and skaters use every day in Denver. These trails run alongside waterways like the South Platte River, Cherry Creek, Bear Creek, Clear Creek, Lakewood Gulch, and many more. When you ride a bike from Confluence Park out to any of the three large reservoirs (Chatfield, Cherry Creek, Bear Creek), you are peddling upstream in valleys that waterways formed over centuries.Paco_Sanchez_Park_033.jpg

Rivers carve valleys into the ground slowly over time, and this process carves natural paths into the landscape. Many cities will use these natural paths as guidelines for their roads and transportation. When building a city, people often have to contend with nature, but sometimes, like when it comes to building train tracks, highways, or trails around Denver, people follow nature’s lead.

The Rocky Mountain News did a great spread on this area here:

http://m.rockymountainnews.com/news/2007/oct/22/rail-cuts-path-through-citys-past/

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Get to Know Your Greenway is written by SPREE staffer J.J. Clark.  Each month, J.J. explores a park along the South Platte River and ties the history of the park into his commentary.  Want to talk to J.J. about where he has been this month?  Email him at: jj@spreemail.org