Pedaling to Parks: Sunken Gardens

Park Address: 1099 Speer Blvd. Denver, CO 80204

Neighborhoods/Areas of interest Served: Santa Fe, Speer, Golden Triangle, Lincoln Park, Baker

Acting as an isthmus between Speer, 8th Ave, and 11th, Sunken Gardens feels like a pass through park more than anything else when you are going through it.

For me, there is value in that regard, but Sunken Gardens has both some interesting history and hidden treasures in the current day that make it one of my favorite parks to ride my bike to.

History

Sunken Gardens Park was bought by the City of Denver back in the late 1900’s. Over the course of the next 20 years, there were two major renovations, the first part of the effort by then Mayor Robert Speer’s dedication to the “City Beautiful” movement. Pictures from the era show the efforts of this beatification: an incredibly flowery garden area that once had a pavilion similar to Cheesman Park.

The rich features, such as the pavilion and the pool, would be taken out over the years. While it is unknown why the pavilion was demolished, the pool was filled in the midst of a polio scare, and many of the features of Sunken Gardens, notably the garden itself, were taken out over the years. The park was added to the National Register for Historic Places, and is in the midst of a renovation in relation to the buildout of the 5280 Trail and the 2021 Sunken Gardens Park Masterplan.

Impressions Today

Going through Sunken Gardens by bike in 2022 was an experience that I would liken to going through an abandoned mall: Some pockets of familiarity with oddities from another time.

Going at a low speed due to the narrow, cracked paths, the remnants of the lake, gardens, and the pavilions were evident in the field that overwhelmed the eye of the park. There wasn’t a ton outside of that, save a basketball court tucked away along the border of the park and an unused playground due to the weather being above 90 degrees on that day.

One of the charming aspects of the park, surprisingly, is this feeling of abandonment. From the steps that would formerly lead to the pool, to a plaque that has been taken down, It feels to an extent like nature is slowly reclaiming the park.

Despite being nearly 13 acres large, the park has a small, intimate feeling. Whereas similar sized facilities like Confluence and Commons Parks are densely packed on any day of the week, Sunken Gardens at the most had about 19-24 people from a rough count. With small crowds, a large open feel, and a feeling of comfortable abandonment, Sunken Gardens Park is a great space for solace and a break in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city.

The central open field of Sunken Gardens Park, with indicators of the former Pavilion and Pool area

Ways to get there by Bus: The 1, 52, and 83L stop close to the park.

Getting there by Bike: Sunken Gardens runs parallel to the Cherry Creek Trail, with the best options to cross Speer at 11th and 8th into the park.

The Park Cropped From Google Maps

Featured Image is the south entrance of the park.

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