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 early 20th century postcard view of Golden with a 2 square block area full of trees boxed in red
City Park, 16th-18th, Arapahoe to Illinois – enlarge - Click to enlarge

According to the City’s website, Golden has 253 acres of parks, 24 miles of trails, and 402 acres of open space. It was not always thus!

For more than 70 years, Golden had only one park. According to the Colorado Transcript, town father William Loveland donated four square blocks to the City with the stipulation that it always be used as a park.

Early Golden tended to operate on a shoestring, and did very little maintenance to the park. They did install a tap in 1884, so it was possible to grow and water trees. Thereafter, citizen groups often planted trees in the park on Arbor Day. Over time it became quite pleasant and shady. Civic groups occasionally tried to improve the park by mowing the grass or adding playground equipment. The equipment was usually destroyed by vandals.

The Transcript printed this sad piece in 1948.

76 Years Ago
You know, it’s just downright pitiful that Golden has no playground for the children, when you see how they love those poor, dilapidated pieces of equipment that are still standing in Pioneer park.’

There’s seldom an hour during any nice day that there are not a few children and sometimes several playing on the rings, the swings and the slide. They don’t mind that there’s a rung missing on the ladder to the top of the slide. They stretch and strain and manage to get to the top. They don’t mind that one swing is gone entirely, another has broken and been hiked up to an uncomfortable height. They don’t care that two of the rings are gone and the chains have been tied together. They still thoroughly enjoy and love what is left— and they use it continually.

And the poor wading pool that some organization struggled to get built once upon a time. Now it is full of sand, waste paper, broken glass, splintered wood, orange peel, twigs, dead leaves and such. Of course it Is never used anymore because it was a health hazard and the dogs practically crowded the children out. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a nice, fenced-in wading pool for the children and a beautiful playground with lots of good, sturdy equipment?
Colorado Transcript
– June 17, 1948

Satellite image of 16th to 18th Streets, Arapahoe to Illinois
Satellite image showing the site of the old City Park

Not long after this, the City decided to sell the park to Jefferson County and the School of Mines. Civic groups began focusing instead on the land near Clear Creek. For whatever reason, that location worked better. We got not only a playground but a campground, athletic fields, tennis courts, and a community center.

satellite view of the north side of Clear Creek from Washington to Hwy 6 with areas circled for Kiwanis, Lions, Optimists, DAR
Lions Park and the clubs that built it. – enlarge

The post-World War II generation, with their profusion of baby boomer offspring, were willing to tax themselves for parks. Over time, we acquired park land all over the city, and today we have about twenty parks–most with completely un-sad playgrounds.

Thanks to the Golden History Museum for providing the online cache of historic Transcripts, and to the Golden Transcript for documenting our history since 1866!