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DougCo commissioners consider plan to take park land from Denver in retaliation for gun control laws

Denver City Council last month voted 9-3 to ban concealed carry guns in parks.

DENVER — Douglas County's Republican commissioners are considering a plan to take over land owned by the City of Denver in retaliation for the city's gun control laws.

In a meeting on Monday, commissioner George Teal proposed taking ownership of Daniels Park, nearly 1,000 acres of land that serves as home to a bison herd and includes an area exclusively set aside for use by Indigenous people. It's located near Castle Pines but has been owned by Denver for nearly a century.

"I'd like to request an executive session specifically for the purposes of receiving legal advice on proceeding with taking action to bring Daniels Park into Douglas County ownership," Teal said.

He went on to say he's heard complaints from people about a "lack of services" and access to park amenities. Another reason for Teal's suggestion, however, seemingly stems from Denver's gun policy.

Denver City Council last month voted 9-3 to ban concealed carry guns in parks, as well as buildings owned, leased by or leased to the city.

The item on the meeting agenda was titled "Daniels Park and CCW," short for carrying a concealed weapon. Teal's fellow commissioner, Lora Thomas, also said Teal was motivated by gun rules in her Tuesday newsletter.

"George Teal has insisted that the commissioners have a discussion on Monday at 1:30 regarding use of the county's Eminent Doman powers to take Daniels Park, located in Douglas County between Castle Pines and Highlands Ranch, from the park's owner -- the City and County of Denver -- because of Denver's recent decision to 'impinge on our Constitutional Rights ensured by the 2nd Amendment,'" her newsletter said, quoting from a Facebook post made by Teal. He shared the post in a closed group for Douglas County conservatives.

Thomas subsequently expressed her dissent for Teal's plan and said an expensive legal battle with Denver over politics isn't productive. 

Teal's idea was met with support from the county's third commissioner, Abe Laydon, which allows the suggestion to move forward into an exploratory phase.

The head of Denver Parks and Rec, Scott Gilmore, said reaching out to Denver with any concerns would have been more effective.

"They have done an incredible job working with us to improve the park for everyone in the region," Gilmore said. "And if there was a commissioner who had an issue, it would have been nice that they would have reached out to somebody in Denver besides going on social media and just doing what people do nowadays instead of really communicating. It would have been nice to have somebody really reach out to us and talk to us."

Thomas shared a similar outlook in the meeting.

"If we feel there are some things that we want Denver -- we would like to talk with Denver about doing more enforcement or more something in that park, I would be in favor of having those conversations," she said. "But not in favor of doing anything else."

As for concealed carry at Daniels Park, Gilmore said they weren't planning to post notices of the new ordinance in Denver's mountain parks soon, as they're focusing on city parks first.

Teal has not yet responded to 9NEWS' request for comment, though an official spokesperson for Douglas County said they are looking forward to having conversations about ownership.

“One visit to Daniels Park and it’s easy to see that Douglas County and the City and County of Denver have been strong partners on this beautiful community asset for many years," spokeswoman Wendy Manitta Holmes said. "We are pleased to start conversations with our elected counterparts in Denver as to what it would look like for Douglas County to potentially own and maintain this park in the future. This is the place to start and any speculations on what could occur as a result of discussions would be premature. Our focus is on a potential win/win for Denver, Douglas County, and all stakeholders associated with the Park."

A spokeswomen for the Denver City Attorney's Office said they only know what was discussed publicly at the Douglas County meeting.

Daniels Park

Daniels Park's 1,000 acres were given over time to the city between 1920 and 1937.

Within Daniels Park is an area called the Tall Bull Memorial Grounds. Established in the 1970s, this land is exclusively set for Indigenous people to use for events and celebrations.

Additionally, Daniels Park has been home to part of the City of Denver's bison herd since 1938. In recent years, the city has started returning bison from the herd to tribal lands across the West.

Daniels Park is one of 22 parks in the Denver Mountain Parks system, meaning it's land long-owned by the city in other counties along the Front Range.  

According to Denver, "it took an act of Congress to create Denver's 'city' park system. In 1914, the U.S. Congress passed an act that allowed the City of Denver to acquire scenic land outside of city limits to protect and preserve it for future generations. Today, Denver maintains parks that are 60 miles from city limits and include famous attractions like Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, Buffalo Bill's Grave on top of Lookout Mountain, Winter Park Ski Resort, a buffalo and elk herd, and Summit Lake, the highest city park in the nation. The original goal of the mountain park system was to make Denver a rival to Switzerland for mountain tourism. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the son of the famed designer of New York's Central Park, was hired to design the park system."

The ownership and operation of Daniels Park is outlined in an intergovernmental agreement between Denver and Douglas County. While dominant eminent domain allows a government to seize property from another in select instances, it's not clear if Douglas County could seize the park.

Gilmore said that according to real estate experts he's spoken with, the value of the land could be about $800 million. For perspective, Douglas County's entire 2022 budget came in at $511 million.

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