On a recent sunny, breezy morning, snowcaps dotted the mountains to the west of the Daniels Park parking and overlook area while bikers and vehicles passed along the park’s nearby muddy gravel road.Showers had rained down the previous morning, leaving puddles along the road and on nearby trails.But rain or shine, Douglas County officials say, Daniels Park — just a few miles outside of Castle Pines — gets lots of visitors. There’s no question why: The park has a lot going for it.And thanks to a nearly $2 million improvement project between Douglas and Denver counties, it will be easier and safer to enjoy.The park boasts spectacular mountain views and historical sites, such as the Tallbull Memorial Grounds and the Kit Carson Memorial, which marks the frontiersman’s last campfire in Colorado.There’s also a grazing bison herd, one of two owned by Denver Parks and Recreation, and outlooks for visitors to watch the animals.“I’m amazed every time I go up there,” said Sean P. Owens, project manager for the Daniels Park improvements project. “You stand on that hill in awe.”However, Owens says many people, often visiting tourists, don’t respect the park. Traffic also creates a hazard for recreational users who walk along the park’s road where there are no trails.Whether it be for mountain views or nature watching, drivers often park alongside the road, creating another traffic hazard, he said.The park is also a hot spot for mudding, where daredevils run their ATV vehicles through those puddles and wear down the road. Vehicles driving along Daniels Park Road often speed, Owens said, and vandalism is a frequent problem.“Abuse of the park that’s happened over time is really starting to become evident,” Owens said. “The trash. The paint poured on rocks. The campfires down in the scrub oak.”And the fires pose an obvious risk in Colorado’s often-dry weather, Owens said.To correct those problems, Douglas and Denver counties will launch phase two of a park improvement plan, part of a 2008 agreement between the two counties. Although the city and county of Denver owns the park as part of the Denver Mountain Park System, Douglas County owns Daniels Park Road running through it.The first round of work has county approval and begins in August, Owens said. The final phase of improvements, mostly landscaping and additional parking, may come in 2018 after the county’s annual budget is approved.Improvements coming in 2017 include:• Paving Daniels Park Road and moving it slightly to the east.• Building nearly a mile of soft-surface trail to run parallel to the road.• Adding 36 parking spaces in the park, in addition to 40 spaces built in 2015.The upgraded road will not only be paved but also incorporate curves to slow drivers and a possible speed limit of 30 mph.Castle Pines Mayor Jeffrey Huff said the improvements will make the park more enjoyable for city residents who will benefit from the lower speed and new road design, along with more trail access.“We are fortunate to have such a wonderful park along the western edge of the city and we thank the Douglas County commissioners and the Denver Mountain Parks Department for their efforts in bringing the project to fruition,” Huff said.Bob Finch, director of natural resources with Denver Parks and Recreation, said the department intends to provide a park ranger for the area to enforce park rules and educate the public.“When you have a nice facility with nice new parking lots and trail amenities, we just want to make sure that we have somebody out there who can manage it,” Finch said.The improvements, and particularly the trail, will also make for a safer environment, he said. Additional outlooks will assist visitors to view the bison away from the road.The two counties are sharing the cost for the project. While Denver may pay for materials in some phases, Douglas County will provide the construction labor.Phase one of the project, which included new trailheads and connections, began in 2008 and continued through 2014, costing approximately $1.7 million. Phase two is estimated at just under $2 million, Owens said.“We think this is a really important partnership with Douglas County and we’ve been really excited about working so closely with them,” Finch said. “We appreciate the support.”That sunny, breezy day in Daniels Park, some of the bison herd meandered to a grazing patch near the roadside. Bulls and cows munched on grass while calves chased each other around their parents’ legs.True to Owens’ word, travelers along the road stopped their cars on the wet shoulder and climbed over puddles and atop rocks to take pictures of the animals with their phones.Soon, with those new outlooks and trails, they won’t have to.
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