Mar 29, 2024 - News

Denver diverts flower bed funds to flow to migrants

Flower gardens at Denver's Civic Center Park in April 2022. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver parks will be less colorful this spring and summer as the bright blossoms typically planted around the city this time of year won't be a radiant reality.

State of bloom: Mayor Mike Johnston's plan to cut back the city budget to leave more money for immigrant support means the city is foregoing planting annual flowers like tulips at public, taxpayer-funded parks.

Why it matters: Denver's vibrant and often intricate floral designs — sometimes in the shape of the Colorado flag or Rocky Mountains — tend to set the city apart and serve as an eye-catching attraction for residents and visitors alike.

By the numbers: Roughly 4.2 acres of beds across more than 80 public parks will be without flowers (which the city grows in City Park greenhouses), according to data provided to Axios Denver.

  • The parks that stand to lose the most vibrancy include Wash Park (37,941 square feet) and City Park (18,056 square feet).

Yes, but: Civic Center Park — which has more than 14,000 square feet of flower beds and is considered Denver's crown jewel and a top tourist destination — will be one of the only locations where they are planted.

  • That's thanks to volunteers, namely the Civic Center Conservancy, who have dedicated their services to planting and maintaining those flower beds throughout the year.
  • The Parks & Rec Department's workforce — which historically has been in charge of maintenance — is down 20% with no budget to hire more people, deputy director Scott Gilmore tells us.

The other side: The cutback to the city budget is actually pushing the parks department to make more sustainable decisions that it's been weighing for years even "quicker," Gilmore says.

  • Planting fewer flowers means the city can replace them with perennials and native plants, which are less "showy," but better support pollinators like bees and butterflies.
  • Annual flower beds also require a ton of city maintenance before and after planting, plus require extra surveillance for thieves who pluck them just for their beauty, costing the city thousands of dollars.

What's next: More city budget cuts to help support people arriving from the southern U.S. border are in the works and expected to be presented to the Denver City Council in April.

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