The 132-acre Belmar Park is a favorite among families and long-term Lakewood residents, including those who are protesting a new apartment project proposed for land nearby.
"You really feel like you are in nature. It's as natural a place as you can get in the city," said Lorraine Mayspringer who chained herself to a tree during the annual Cider Day festival at the park. She and a group of neighbors are working to raise awareness about the new complex being proposed.
The land is owned by a developer with Kairoi Residential. The plan is to replace an old office building just outside the east boundary of the park at 777 S. Yarrow St with a 412-unit multifamily residential building. It would also have 542 parking spaces internal to the building.
"It was a real eye-opener because of the size, the scale of the project and it shares a property line with our park," said Lakewood resident Steve Farthing.
The project is currently under administrative review by the city and is expected to continue through the end of the year. Since it's privately owned property that is zoned for multistory, multifamily housing, the City of Lakewood said public hearings are not required in the review.
Even so, some of the public has a lot to say about it.
A big concern of theirs is the birds that live on a sanctuary island in the middle of Kountze Lake. While the park itself is not designated a sanctuary, residents say those birds can often be seen in the trees in the park and surrounding properties, including the one being proposed for the apartment complex.
The current plan calls for 69 trees to be removed from that nearby property for the construction to take place.
"It's a pretty severe reduction of the habitat. Habitat loss is the number one reason bird species are declining," said Farthing.
"We have nature right here in the middle of the City of Lakewood. Why anyone would want to disturb that or destroy that, we just don't understand," said Mayspringer.
The city does require tree replacements. For this particular project, if approved, they say it would require 204 new trees to be planted, on and directly adjacent to the complex. If it's not reasonable to plant any more trees on the site, the city said they will collect a fee from the developer that will go toward planting the rest of the trees in the park, Belmar Trailhead or the Ward 3 neighborhood in general.
The Belmar Trailhead project was launched to resolve the issue of parking near Belmar Park. The city had an agreement with the former owner of 777 S. Yarrow for event parking. Residents would also use those parking spots to get close access to the park. Now that the property has a new owner, the city is constructing a new trailhead near the Belmar Library with overflow parking.
The size of the complex and the possible traffic congestion and increase in population density it could bring to the area are other concerns. Right now two-story multifamily townhome complexes, the Library, Lakewood's Public Safety Center, and neighborhoods with duplexes and single-family homes border the park.
"It's just questionable whether [the project] complies with Lakewood's comprehensive plan," said Farthing.
In Lakewood's comprehensive plan, it identifies a goal as: Respect and protect the existing character of Lakewood's stable neighborhoods.
"Through the site plan review process and design guidelines, ensure that new multifamily, mixed-use, and commercial developments adjacent to single-family neighborhoods are compatible by incorporating appropriate design, scale, height transition, and connectivity to seamlessly integrate with the neighborhood."
"We don't feel it's very seamless," said Farthing, "We're not sure that's being recognized. The developer may not even be aware of that. So we don't feel that's being addressed."
The group is encouraging any neighbors who want to share their opinions to speak out at Lakewood's next city council meeting on Monday.
"I want people to get involved and get educated about this so that they can either, help us or decide it's not their business. Whatever they decide to do, we really need the voices of the people," said Mayspringer.
Denver7 reached out to the developer late Saturday afternoon but has not heard back just yet.