Glendale’s Back Yard
Colorado is known across the nation for its outdoor recreation opportunities and incredible weather. Alongside world-class ski resorts, the Rocky Mountains, and myriad public and federal lands, urban areas in the state boast some of the country’s most extensive and well-maintained green spaces. Glendale’s parks and public works are no exception. Featuring some 20 acres of formalized public space and an additional 20 acres of green space abutting Denver’s Cherry Creek Trail, Glendale’s small urban footprint is home to lots of room for outdoor fun.
Glendale’s Public Works Department is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of all of the city’s parks and green spaces. Josh Bertrand serves as Director of Public Works, overseeing the department’s eleven full-time employees and all administrative functions. Field Operations Manager Jody Yonke, a Glendale civil servant for some three decades, explains that Public Works is responsible for a host of duties in the city: “We do a little of everything. Water, waste water, sewer, streets, parks, snow removal – anything that needs to be done in the city, we do it.” Public Works’ role is a critical one. Without these dedicated individuals, the city would cease to function.
Like many areas along the Front Range, Glendale has experienced growth in recent years. The city’s residential space is unique, however. With a population of about 5,000, there is just one single-family home in the city. Public Works Director Bertrand says this makes Glendale’s parks and green spaces especially important: “If you’re a Glendale resident, the parks are your place to be outside. The parks are everyone’s back yard. ”
Glendale’s parks heighten a strong sense of community in the city. Infinity Park serves as the central hub for outdoor activities in Glendale, but as Bertrand points out: “In Glendale there’s a park to fit every niche and need.” Each park space has its own unique character: from the dog park at Playa Del Carmen to Infinity Park’s synthetic turf field; from Creekside’s volleyball court to the playground at Mir Park – outdoor spaces offer something for everyone in Glendale.
Yonke and his colleague, Turf Manager Noel Harryman, point out that in warmer months parks featuring rental spaces become hot spots in the city. Bertrand acknowledges the capacity at which the parks are operating, and the hard work of the employees who keep them in ship shape: “When the season hits, the pavilions are almost always booked,” he says, “Our guys keep them maintained and ready for events – birthday parties, weddings, family reunions, barbeques – anything you can think of. It’s seven days a week when the weather is nice.”
Harryman notes that the number of Public Works personnel per capita sometimes presents a challenge, but one that the department is up to facing: “With the volume of people in the city, the parks get used a lot. At the same time the people take a ton of pride in them. The better they look the more pride the community takes in the parks.” With Public Works and the close-knit Glendale community both holding these outdoor spaces in such high regard, it’s no wonder they are thoroughly enjoyed.
What Sets Glendale Apart?
Glendale’s parks, and the Public Works department that maintains them, are set apart from parks in larger cities in a number of ways. Significantly, nearly all of Glendale’s public irrigation uses non-potable water. In many larger cities (including Denver) public parks and open spaces are irrigated using water that has been made safe to drink. Glendale sources its water from four alluvial wells in the nearby Cherry Creek aquifer, and Public Works makes great efforts to preserve it: namely by embracing non-treated water and by straggling irrigation schedules. Not treating water removes an expensive and time-consuming step from the Public Works process – ultimately resulting in a huge savings to taxpayers.
Glendale’s small urban footprint makes its numerous green spaces impressive, but it’s the city’s attitude that truly sets its outdoor recreation and maintenance apart. Bertrand, Yonke, and Harryman all commented on a particular spirit in Glendale – both among the residents and within the Public Works department. According to Yonke, “This is a can-do environment. We never take a week off. Never even a day. If there’s something we need to do our job, there’s never any hesitation from the city to make it happen. That’s kind of like a blank check. It’s nice to know the community values these places.”
Asked about the future of Glendale’s parks, Director Bertrand is contemplative. Pondering expansion and how park use has evolved during his tenure, he reflects: “There’s been a fundamental shift in the demographics in Glendale – we’re going to the dogs. When I started there was one dog park and very sporadic use of other parks by dog owners. Now it seems almost everybody has a dog, and the dogs access all of the parks. That’s a slow but systematic change to how our outdoor spaces are used. I’m not quite sure how we’ll meet that challenge, but we are certainly working to keep everyone accommodated.”
Canine companions are popular nationwide, but Colorado’s influx of residents in the past several years has produced a particularly dog-friendly group of émigrés. Areas across the state have had to deal with the repercussions. Several communities surrounding Denver have been forced to close parks as a result of the time and costs involved in removing pet waste. While threatening park closures elsewhere, Bertrand is confident that Glendale’s parks aren’t there yet: “It’s an interesting dynamic; we’re not closing any parks because of pets right now, but it’s a microcosm of how we’re evolving as a society in terms of how we use our park spaces.” The evolution of Glendale’s community outdoor spaces is ongoing, but its clear that Public Works is, and will remain, dedicated to embracing adaptation in a way that maintains the spirit that makes the city’s parks great already.
With forthcoming plans for outdoor workout equipment at Infinity Park’s open space, Glendale Public Works is already working to fulfill the shifting needs of park users. Listening to, understanding, and existing within the community’s desires demonstrates Glendale’s strong appreciation for its outdoor spaces, and makes the city’s parks, and the people who maintain them, special.