Colorado Public Works Journal, Fall 2023

48┃ Colorado Public Works Journal INDUSTRY INSIGHTS feature by Sean O’Keefe Now in his 23rd year in Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR), Chief of Staff Mark Bernstein remains driven by his passion for landscape architecture and the prospect of city building. After growing up and beginning his career as a landscape architect in a private practice in Indianapolis, IN., Bernstein identified Denver as the up-and-coming place to be for what he wanted to do. “In the mid-90s, there were a lot of exciting and inspirational design ideas coming out of Denver, and that’s what drew me here initially,” says Bernstein, who first worked for DHM Design before joining DPR in 1999. “I started working for the City and County of Denver as a landscape architect involved in managing capital projects as part of a 1998 bond program. Parks, recreation, and access to open spaces have always played an important role in the quality of life for the people of Colorado.” As stewards of a legacy park system, DPR is dedicated to enhancing the health of residents and the environment through innovative programs and safe, beautiful, and sustainable places. Currently, the DPR system includes 30 recreation centers and over 20,000 acres of park lands. “DPR is defined by a world-class parks and recreation system that includes more than 6,000 acres of urban park land, which is joined by over 14,000 acres of mountain park lands,” says Bernstein. He marvels at the foresight that Denver city planners had around the turn of the 20th Century in pre-visualizing the Denver of today. “City planners acquired the lion’s share of the mountain lands way back then because they understood that the mountains would always be an important part of local culture.” Inclusive of 22 accessible parks and 25 conservation areas, Denver’s Mountain Parks extend across six counties including– Gilpin, Jefferson, Douglas, and Clear Creek. Combined, they offer hiking, biking, fishing, golfing, and other outdoor adventures along with cultural sites like the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave on Lookout Mountain and the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheater. “That era of city planners also developed Denver’s elegant tree-lined boulevards. Speer, 6th, 17th, and Monaco come to mind, which are reflective of the City Beautiful ideals prominently shaping urban design at the time,” says Bernstein. “And of course, Civic Center Park is a national historic landmark and one of the most intact City Beautiful public spaces in the country. So, the parks system has always been a tremendously important part of what Denver is and how people here want to live.” Through more than 20 years at the helm, Bernstein has had his hands on quite a few planning and design assignments as well. He appreciates that the city and citizens of Denver have always been willing to step up when it comes to investing in public access to nature and the outdoors. “In 2018 voters approved a Parks Legacy Fund, which is a quarterpercent sales tax that directs a continual stream of revenue toward deferred maintenance projects and new parks acquisitions throughout the city,” continues Bernstein. “Right now, we are working on creating a whole new list of projects, through Denver’s Game Plan for a Healthy City.” Game Plan for a Healthy City is part of Comprehensive Plan 2040, a community-driven process that will shape Denver’s future Ralph Bell, Castle Rock Construction Company Mark J. Bernstein “Parks, recreation, and access to open spaces have always played an important role in the quality of life for the people of Colorado.”