Located at 1200 W. Florida Avenue, Ruby Hill Park is one of the key attractions of our neighborhood. With hills that provide fantastic views of Denver, plenty of open space and amenities, and an easily accessed location, the park draws visitors from all across the metro area.
In the latter half of the 1800s, miners would camp alongside the South Platte River, on high ground about five miles south of what is now known as downtown Denver. Instead of gold, they would often come across red-hued gems during their extraction efforts. The area was named after the gems’ bright coloring, taking on the name of Ruby Hill. Today the area’s landmark is Ruby Hill Park, an impressive piece of land that’s always had plenty of possibilities, but is hardly considered by folks outside of Denver or even by those who live here to be one of the city’s top parks if they know it exists at all. But Ruby Hill’s time to shine may finally be upon us. Nowadays, one could argue that the park is getting more attention than it ever has received before, even more than it did during the mining period generations ago.
The City of Denver is in the process of reinventing Ruby Hill Park as a potential companion to the nearby and uber-popular Washington Park. It started with the modest addition of a new pavilion, playground equipment, and picnic tables, but the project will soon culminate in the creation of an urban mountain bike course and an amphitheater with a capacity of 7,500 concert-goers. So the city has big plans for Ruby Hill Park, a long-underused 80-acre gem that the Parks and Recreation Department sees as a diamond in the rough.
Since the mid-1950s, Ruby Hill Park has been in existence. The park offers 80 acres of lush grass to play on, and it is elevated above the city, offering one of the most picturesque views of the Denver skyline and the Rocky Mountains in all of Denver. The area has an interesting history. Aside from being a mining hub, the park’s bluff served as a lookout point for Native Americans. Also part of the area’s history poses challenges to the city, such as Ruby Hill’s service as a landfill before becoming a park. Consequently, asbestos has been found in the park’s irrigation system, which has caused improvement projects to stall. However, the asbestos-ridden landfill that once occupied the park is a distant memory.
Ruby Hill Park’s revitalization efforts were sparked by the success of the Ruby Hill Rail Yard, the country’s first winter urban terrain park. The rail yard opened in 2007 and has become a major attraction for the community. The rail yard’s success made it a model for other cities that teamed up with ski resorts for similar collaborations around the country, according to Winter Park Resorts, which partnered with the Parks and Recreation Department and other entities to launch the rail yard. Three years after the launch of the Ruby Hill Rail Yard, Denver has begun the first of three phases to transform the entire park. Phase one began in the summer of 2010 and culminated with the improvement of several park projects the following year. They included the laying of 20 miles of irrigation pipes; the erection of a 150-person capacity picnic pavilion; the addition of new playground equipment; and the redoing of park roads, a dual-purpose effort that will allow access to the Levitt Pavilion and one that the city expects will cut down on cruising and other activities that local police are looking to curb.
Approximately $5 million was spent for phase one, according to Sondgerath. About 75 percent of the funding came from bonds, while the rest came from city capital improvement funds. In phase two of the city’s work at Ruby Hill Park, two primary projects will be built: a grand promenade and a mountain bike park. Approximately two miles of trails will circle the park and are gateways to a mountain bike skills course area. Phase two work will also include the addition of a 32-feet wide promenade, which will serve as the park’s spine, allowing access through the park from Florida to Jewell Avenues. It will cost about $1.5 million and will be funded primarily by city capital improvement dollars and grants. It’s expected to be completed by the end of next year.
As part of phase three of the Ruby Hill improvement, Levitt Pavilions, a nationwide nonprofit that partners with cities and provides free outdoor concerts, will create an amphitheater on the property. It will be located in the park’s bowl, below the existing picnic area, and it will host more than 50 free concerts every year. Work on the amphitheater is scheduled to begin by the end of next year or the beginning of 2015, with the first concerts scheduled for 2016. Approximately $4 million will be spent in Phase 3, with the city and the Levitt Foundation splitting the funding 50/50. It is no wonder that Ruby Hill Park’s revitalization efforts are starting to gather momentum with all of these new additions.
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