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Friday, July 1, 2022

Denver Botanical Garden plans to expand Chatfield Farm

Chickens, goats, a large pig, ponies, ducks, raptors, prairie dogs, corn, vegetables, native plants, historic farm and farm buildings, and willows and a creek feeding wildlife. This is a quick list of Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms.

To the mix, the organization seeks to add new reception and education centres, a market square, a permanent stage for the amphitheater and gardens featuring native plants of the region and agriculture practiced by indigenous peoples. The development plan for Chatfield Farms envisions a phased addition to fundraising.

Denver Botanic Gardens CEO Brian Vogt discusses plans for a recent tour by golf cart of 700-acre Chatfield Farm in southern Jefferson County. The area is about 20 miles southwest of the organization’s public gardens in Denver’s Cheesman Park neighborhood.

Vogt said the Botanic Gardens completed a master development plan for the Denver site in 2020. “It gave the institution the bandwidth to revisit Chatfield Farm now and think about what it wants to be in the future.”

The botanical garden has so far raised approximately $6 million for the proposed projects. Vogt said the first job would likely be what he jokingly called “the really glamorous stuff”: sewer systems, parking lots, a solar power array and other infrastructure.

Vogt said the total price tag, which would include a restaurant overlooking a grass bowl that makes up the amphitheater, would be around $38 million to $40 million. Getting money will work.

Jintak Han, The Denver Post

Denver Botanic Gardens CEO Brian Vogt discusses planned improvements to the Chatfield Farms facility managed by the Botanic Gardens in Littleton on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

“The thing about gardens is that we don’t break ground until we know we have money,” he said.

The organization is working with various government agencies, including the Army Corp of Engineers, to obtain approval for the permit. Vogt said it is likely to take until next spring to submit a final plan.

The Botanic Gardens has managed Chatfield Farms on that land since 1973, under the leadership of the Army Corps of Engineers. People living in the area were relocated and the nearby Chatfield Reservoir was created in 1965 following the devastating floods of the South Platte River. More than 20 people were killed and more than 5,000 home and farm buildings and about 6,700 small businesses were destroyed or damaged.

Vogt said that one of the original ideas for the post-flood site was to build an arboretum. “But it’s hard to grow trees in Colorado. There’s not that much water.”

Another idea was to manage the land as a nature preserve. “But then what do you do about historic farms?” Vogt asked.

The botanical garden has blended nature and historic uses of the land to focus on agriculture and to restore land along Deer Creek, which runs through Chatfield Farm. On a farm next to a house, shed and barn on the historic Hildebrand farm, employees and volunteers grow vegetables to be taken to farmers’ markets in areas with limited access to fresh produce.

Other crops include corn, pumpkin, lavender fields and vegetables for a community agriculture program, which people support through buying shares. Chatfield Farms hosts the Veterans to Farmers program. There is a dye garden which grows a variety of plants used for dyeing clothes.

World Nation News Desk
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