The Southern Gables Neighborhood Park

The Southern Gables Neighborhood Park

Do you think we should modernize the Southern Gables Neighborhood Park?
What? We have a park??
Read on… 

Back in 2019, and continuing through the dark days of the 2020 COVID year, several of our community leaders came up with an idea for a long-needed neighborhood improvement. They started working on plan. Then in March of 2021 they submitted a proposal to the City of Lakewood, and in August it was approved by the City Council. The Council agreed (and so do we) that it’s about time for us to update and improve the Southern Gables Neighborhood Park.

Southern Gables Neighborhood Park?

If you are surprised to hear about the park in our neighborhood, you’re not alone. Technically, there isn’t one! Lots of neighbors go to the Green Gables Elementary School campus though, to walk pets or jog, let their children play on the equipment, toss a Frisbee or just enjoy the shade trees — but it’s not really a park. This project will give us an improvement to the school grounds to make it much more park-like, and available for better community use. As the proposal described…

Part of the current walking track. Other sections have disappeared entirely.

“In partnership with volunteers from the neighborhood community, Green Gables Elementary School and Green Gables Parent/Teacher Association (PTA), we [The Southern Gables Neighborhood Association] plan to create, utilize and maintain updates to the school fields and play space. This over-all plan would include a closed loop asphalt trail which would measure 1/3 mile (three laps = one mile), with… resting spots or areas where families might watch their children play on the playground… Outdoor seating (six outdoor picnic tables with connected benches) will be placed on the asphalt on the north side of the school and near the current playground.

Doug Whitten, standing on a surviving section of the old track

The updated school grounds will be used by neighbors for both exercise and leisure outside of school hours as well as the students and staff at Green Gables Elementary. The Southern Gables neighborhood… does not currently have a neighborhood park and we believe this could serve as a community park area outside of school hours if it is updated. The walking trail could be used for walking and running, bike riding and scooters for small children, as well as dog walking. The school’s running club would also benefit from the one-third mile trail. [There will be space for] younger children and their families to play basketball and other games painted on the asphalt. As children play, the additional seating would also give families a place to sit and supervise or a place for senior citizens to take their visiting grandchildren. This would also be a place for families to bring a picnic.”

Proposed Closed Loop Track project at Green Gables Elementary School. The part next to the school is along existing pavement.

City and District Support

The amount approved for the project was $60,000. Jeffco Public Schools will be the Project Manager. As is usual with “Community Participation” projects, the City of Lakewood grant does not cover the full cost, but it provides the basic authorization and the bulk of the funding. The rest is to be provided by “community participation.” The community has to be a stakeholder, with some “skin in the game.”

The project is assured of support from City of Lakewood Planning Department and Jeffco Public Schools. In a letter from Jeffco Schools Facilities & Construction Management, Executive Director Tim Reed wrote, “We believe the improvement funded by this grant and other donations, will be beneficial to the students and community by providing additional amenities and recreational opportunities. The school district will maintain the trail, playgrounds and equipment and continue to irrigate the existing green space.”

You can help: there is plenty of room for participation

About that community participation: with current material costs, there is plenty of room for us to participate in bringing this project to completion, for the benefit of everyone in the neighborhood. The $60,000 grant will barely cover the cost of the asphalt paving for the central feature, the paved walking track. The seats, benches and tables, signs, and provisions for shade or shelter will have to be covered by fundraising.


The Green Gables PTA has made an initial pledge, and other sources will be sought. The project falls under IRS Section 501(c)(3) guidelines so contributions are tax deductible. The school has set up a page for donations, with the project name #1 Outdoor Space Improvement Project.

To make a donation, CLICK HERE. The contact person for donation questions is Jennifer Seltz, the Business Manager at Green Gables Elementary, 303-982-8314.

View of the school looking across the basketball courts.


About That Neighborhood Night Out

It Was a Fine Party

Here’s something you might not have known about the 2021 Neighborhood Night Out. It’s worth noting…

Doug Did It!

We all know what happened to 2020. What a mess! Imagine you’re the president of a neighborhood association that has the purpose of promoting community spirit and neighborly interaction. Like, say for example, Doug Whitten of the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association. Your biggest annual event is called “Neighborhood Night Out” — a big free neighborhood-wide party! And it’s 2020 so people are isolating themselves in their homes. You don’t dare ask your reliable and helpful Local Business Supporters to chip and support a big social event with the costs of food and entertainment, providing big-ticket raffle prizes, and all that; after all, they’re struggling too. The year just goes by, events are cancelled, and at the end of 2020 everybody thought all the troubles  would be over. Come on 2021!

Then, hey, wait, what’s this “Delta” thing? You mean it’s not over? Better lay low, still can’t count on people coming out of their houses. Caution, go easy. Doug and the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association Board talked it over, and Doug proposed a plan to restart slowly — instead of a big bash in August, how about sponsoring a lot of individual block parties? People could meet in driveways or yards, keep their social distance as they saw fit, and it would be a step forward in neighbors getting together. We did that, and it turned out pretty well. The block parties we sponsored were well attended and fun. All the Board members said well, that was great, and maybe next year we can have a real Neighborhood Night Out again.

But Doug Kept Going

He had a feeling that something was still lacking, and that the Association could do more. He pressed. He made calls. He sent emails. Bit by bit, he put together a plan. He had a flyer made up and got a Board member, Erwin Bunzli, to deliver them to all the front doors. He arranged for a DJ, got Joy’s Kitchen to donate hot dogs and buns, and arranged for entertainment such as the kids’ face painting and the Westwoods Community Church’s bouncy house. He put up signs all over the neighborhood. He rented tables and chairs, and drove a rented truck to get them. Together with his wife Judy, they bought drinks and chips, brought jugs and cookers, set up electrical power, laid out the plan for booths, tents, and kiosks, and worked with volunteers they had recruited to help with setting up and running the event. He arranged for prizes of $100 gift certificates to be raffled off, and conducted the raffle with an eager crowd. Then after it was all over, Doug wrote thank-you letters to the participating volunteer organizations and sponsors whose support he had arranged.

Over 580 neighbors, parents, students and friends attended the 2021 Neighborhood Night Out. That is almost as many as in our previous record-setting year, with over 600 in 2019. That’s pulling the neighborhood together to an unprecedented degree during a time when many with less vision and optimism were thinking “It’ll never work.”

Doug Did It.

He would be the first to say he had a lot of help, and that everyone pitched in, but it all started with the planning and scrambling that Doug did. Here is a list of the organizations and businesses that he got to participate in the event. They gave out merchandise or information, hosted games for kids, and provided community interaction and education. Moreover, they did it on remarkably short notice, after just about everyone but Doug had written the event off with a “maybe next year.” As he said afterward, “I feel people were ready to get out and have some social interaction, to be with neighbors again.”

  • Action Center
  • Bear Creek High School
  • Carmody Middle School
  • Closed Loop Track Project at Green Gables Elementary School
  • Cub Scouts
  • Denver Sports Medicine
  • Fleischer Family Farm
  • Green Gables Community Garden
  • Green Gables Elementary School PTA
  • HK Real Estate
  • Joy’s Kitchen
  • Lakewood Mathnasium
  • Lakewood Police Department
  • Magill’s Ice Cream
  • South Lakewood Business Association
  • Sustainable Southern Gables
  • West Metro Fire Rescue
  • Westwoods Community Church

One of the Association Board members, Ken Fischer, summed the evening up this way. “It was really a pleasant time. Most everybody was in a very good mood. The DJ was outstanding as were the dogs and lemonade. Magill’s was outstanding. I was taken by the youth and diversity of the folks, and there were a lot of new, young families.”

There’s a saying Doug goes by, and it’s more than just a part of his email signature. It’s good advice that is lived, not just given:

“If you always give you will always have.”

Thanks, Doug. You did it.

Picture credits: Green Gables Elementary and Joy’s Kitchen… click to enlarge and browse through.