DENVER — Denver is in the process of acquiring a new mountain park.
Denver Parks and Recreation has proposed that the 450-acre Axton Ranch property in Jefferson and Gilpin counties be donated to the City and County of Denver as part of Denver's Mountain Parks system. The property is less than an hour drive from Denver. It is adjacent to Roosevelt National Forest and near Arapahoe National Forest, Golden Gate Canyon State Park and Jefferson County Open Space.
The area features conifer and aspens, meadows, ponds, a small creek and a historic trail that provides access to Mount Thorodin and Starr Peak, according to Denver Parks and Recreation. It was historically operated as a small cattle ranch and has stayed in the Axton family since 1954.
"We are excited to donate this beautiful ranch to Denver Mountain Parks,” the Axton family said in a statement. “We feel they will steward and preserve it for future generations to love and enjoy as we have. Congratulations City of Denver for your interest in preservation and your newest mountain park.”
The donation includes a Right of First Offer on an adjacent 38 acres. This would allow the city to purchase those extra acres if the family decided to sell it.
The last park added to Denver's Mountain Park system was the James Q. Newton Park in Conifer, which was donated in 1939.
Executive Director of Parks and Recreation Happy Haynes said it's never been more important to grow parks and acquire new land for trails and open space.
“This property will be managed primarily as a conservation area focused on sustainability and will also expand mountain park access for Denver residents and visitors," Haynes said.
Denver's City Council Finance and Governance Committee will hear the proposal on Feb. 16 and City Council will consider it in March. Until then, the property will remain private.
After closing, Denver Parks and Recreation plans to designate the property as Axton Ranch Mountain Park, ensuring it is protected from development and real estate transactions. This can only change with the approval of Denver voters.
A future master plan — including environmental education and programs for both adults and children — will determine the long-term vision for the park. This plan will also focus on forest health, wildlife habitat conservation, wildfire mitigation and watershed stewardship.
As of now, Denver’s Mountain Parks system includes 22 parks and 24 conservation areas spanning about 14,000 acres. It spans three counties and altitudes beyond 13,000 feet.