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New walking trails, gardens and art have made Denver's Athmar Park safer, neighbors say

Mural in Athmar Park neighborhood
Posted at 8:35 PM, Jan 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-16 22:35:06-05

DENVER — Can public art, gardens, and outdoor spaces make our neighborhoods not only more beautiful but safer? Communities across the country have been conducting projects to find out, including Denver’s Athmar Park neighborhood.

Through financial help from the City of Denver and countless volunteer hours from neighbors, the Tennessee Trail Project turned unkept land underneath power lines into a walking trail with murals, encased pages from children’s books and public gardens.

Kristin Lacy, who lives across the street from the trail, recalled the transformation she has witnessed in the roughly seven years since discussions on the project began.

“When I first bought my house, this whole lot was just empty and, like, literally so much trash,” Tracy said. “And I think it encouraged — because it looked really bad — a lot of people to treat it poorly as well and, like, not take care of it.”

Lacy was among the first group of neighbors to begin pushing city leaders and Xcel Energy representatives to bring improvements to the empty land. While options like playgrounds and a dog park were entertained, she said, the group ultimately ended up on a simpler project.

“We landed on: it would just be nice if it was cleaned up, and there was a safe space for kids to walk to school,” Lacy said.

While the project has been simple, in a sense, it has nonetheless had a profound impact on the community around it. Completed last year, neighbors said the Tennessee Trail Project hasn’t just made the neighborhood look better; it has made it feel safer, too.

“I see more people saying ‘hi’ to each other, and I see more neighbor kids playing safely while their parents are watching them from the front porch,” Lacy said. “And that makes us all kind of feel better about where we live.”

According to the Denver Police Department, there were four murders in the Athmar Park neighborhood in 2020, four in 2021, and one in 2022. In 2023, there were zero. Similarly, property crime in Athmar Park has fallen as the trail has been built.

While there are some outlying categories — like aggravated assaults, for example, which were higher in 2023 — DPD data shows a reduction in total crime in Athmar Park. Similar projects in other cities across the country have seen similar results.

Residents of Athmar Park who spoke with Denver7 don’t believe it is a coincidence that their neighborhood has become safer as it has become more beautiful and vibrant.

“I’m just so excited to see the results and the changes of, you know, safety and crime rates and things when we just make small improvements,” Lacy said. “I think it is a really good model for if we distribute resources more equitably and, you know, more evenly across the city, we can make big changes in some of these neighborhoods that do have higher crime rates.”

New walking trails, gardens and art have made Denver's Athmar Park safer, neighbors say


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