Get to Know Your Greenway
By: J.J. Clark
SPREE Staff Writer
Other Get to Know Your Greenway Articles on left
Ruby Hill is getting a lot of attention lately because of the amazing investments and plans for the park space. Plans already completed have worked to activate the park as an urban ski and snowboard hill in the winter, and an out door event space in the summer. Atop the hill sits the newest of the developments, a beautiful picnic area with a shade structure that seconds as a sundial. At the picnic area you will find permanent bathroom structures, and a great a view of the downtown.
This park is going to see big things in the next few years, and is being developed as a multidimensional park intended for use year round.
During the winter you can grab your snowboard, your skis, or just your winter hat and go to Ruby Hill and practice your winter sports for FREE! Don't have any mountain gear? No problem, they supply all the gear you would need, boots, board, skiis, all at no cost. During the summer you can see a freee concert, picnic in a private nook among a grove of trees, or use the brand new picnic tables and bathrooms at the top of the hill.
Ruby Hill is a vastly expansive park, with many amenities like tennis courts, baseball fields, playgrounds, and endless picnic areas. Recently, atop the highest hill (from which you can see Denver’s skyline), sits the most recent (and first in many) improvements to the park. There is now a large formal picnic area with indoor bathrooms, picnic tables, and a sculpture that is also a sundial. This newest improvement makes the park even more attractive as a weekend destination, and they are not finished yet. Future plans for the park include an amphitheater in which to offer free concerts and events, and much more. Keep your eye on Ruby Hill, as it is about to get an incredible amount of improvements.
In the Summer of 2012, Ruby Hill was host to first free concert offered by the Greenway Foundation at this location. Expanding the concert series to both the River North district and Ruby Hill (in addition to the traditional Confluence Park location), The Greenway Foundation is actively spotlighting and activating many areas of the river by offering free community events on its banks.
Ruby Hill Park has a long history of recreation and diverse use. During the winter, Ruby Hill becomes Denver’s most popular sledding terrain, and with the help of a little cold weather it is home to a complete outdoor ski and snowboard rail system. Timothy Hutchens, the Outdoor Recreation Supervisor for Denver Parks and Recreation commented that it was a great success last year but that the recent wave of warm days has made snow making extremely difficult. Despite this, the first sign of snow draws many of Denver’s avid sledders and thrill-seekers to the hill for adventure.
Ruby Hill’s Name
In the 1850’s the Colorado area, then part of the Kansas Territory, was inundated with prospectors in search of gold. While small amounts of gold were panned out of the South Platte River, many other things were discovered in the process. Among the things the prospectors found were little red gemstones that looked just like rubies. They found so many of these gemstones in the river near Ruby Hill , the rumor started to spread that the hill was made of rubies, and it soon earned the name "Ruby Hill." When the stones were examined by a geologist it turned out that they were not rubies, but were garnets instead. While the park and the hill still bear the name Ruby Hill, a more accurate name would be Garnett Hill. These garnets are still abundant in the South Platte River and can be easily found when panning for gold. You can buy a gold pan and find out yourself!
The History of the Area
The tallest part of the hill is adjacent to Florida Ave. and was once the most popular sledding hill in the city. Due to the danger involved with sledding it, it earned the nickname "The Hill of Death." The hill is now forested to keep Denver thrill-seekers from sledding down the hill which crosses two streets, train tracks, and ends in the South Platte River. Currently the steepest and most popular sledding areas are located next to the sizable playground visible from the road inside the park. From the Hill of Death one can see a plot of land currently housing Overland Golf Course, but that land has seen a tremendous amount of change throughout Denver’s history. It began as a campground, because the area was far enough away from the Denver settlement at Confluence Park that it could serve as an escape from the town. As the city grew, and the need for supplies in the mountain gold mining towns grew, the land came into the hands of Rufus Clark. Clark’s potato farm spanned the area between Ruby Hill and Denver University, and stretched all the way to current day Highlands Ranch. As the demand for potatoes fell with the number of miners and mines in the mountains, the land was given to the city and became a horse racetrack, a car racetrack, a runway to the first plane flight in Colorado, and finally now hosts Overland Golf Course. Ruby Hill was a popular viewing spot for watching the races, and watching the plane flight. The hill had standing room only for the first plane flight, but the overconfidence of the pilot, nicknamed “The Terror of the Skies”, turned the first plane flight into the first plane crash in Colorado.
Ruby Hill is located at the intersection of Florida and South Platte River Dr. in Denver. Although warm weather prevented the Railyard from opening in 2009, the consistenly cold 2010 winter weather allowed them to build a snow jump park right in the city. The "Railyard" as it is termed, offers snowboarders, and skiers of all levels free gear, lessons, and terrain on which to learn and practice. Immediately next to the Railyard is a wide, and steep hill dedicated to sledding. The Ruby Hill has been transformed into an urban resort, giving access to one of Colorado's most famous recreational activities to Denverites without leaving the city.
Winter Park donates the water, and snowblower, and the boxes that the Railyard is built out of, while Christy Sports supplies the snowboards, skis and other equipment at no cost to visitors. Partnered with Denver Parks and Recreation, these groups have put together a remarkable recreational resource to Denver along the South Platte River. The vision for the Railyard is to "bring the mountain to Denver, for the people who cannot afford gear, and cannot get to the resorts hours away" said Curtis Osborne, a volunteer instructor at the Railyard.
The hill is open every day until 9pm, but the instructor hours change. If you are interested in getting lessons, or just a bit of instruction, you can find more information on their website: RAILYARD Information
Modern Day at the Park
Through different seasons this park hosts a wide array of recreational opportunities. The recreation potential of the hills at the park motivated Denver Parks and Recreation to build snow rails and routes of varying difficulty. The program aims to teach kids how to snowboard and ski, and then give them access to a place for practice and learning without reservation or money. This system of rails, called The Rail Yard, which is made possible because of a partnership between Denver Parks and Recreation and the Winter Park Ski Resort, is only a small part of the many outdoor recreation programs headed up by Timothy Hutchens,
“The purpose of The Rail Yard was to bring the mountain to the kids who could not afford it.” Hutchens said. Building the rails and collecting the gear to outfit Denver’s youth who cannot afford snowboards and skis has been a process fueled by the belief that all of Denver’s youth should have the opportunity to take part in one of the most popular recreational activities in Colorado. The program that outfits the kids with ski gear is called “Jibbin’ for Kids” and is possible because of partnerships that Hutchens has formed with many people and businesses. Hutchens says what makes The Rail Yard possible “is sponsorships and in kind donations, the generosity of private businesses has made this a reality.” With an entire lighting system donated by Muskco, they even were able to open The Rail Yard at night. Unfortunately, the warm weather this year made the Rail Yard impossible to run. Hutchens says that with enough cold weather, they will be back next year for some inner-city excitement.
For more information on the urban recreation opportunities Denver Parks and Recreation offers, visit www.denvergov.org/recreation, or see the recreation brochure.