Two people sit

at Daniels Park

in Sedalia. The park remains up for grabs, a Douglas County commissioner says.

Douglas County is squaring off against the City and County of Denver in a surprise attempt to seize a 1,000-acre historic park owned by Denver in retaliation for the city’s recently enacted concealed-carry gun laws.

Last week, Douglas County commissioners went into executive session during a midday meeting to discuss what it would take to seize the park under eminent domain and then voted 2-1 in favor of moving forward.

Eminent domain is a legal way for the government to force a landowner to sell for a public project, but it has to pay the owner fair compensation. In the past, it's been used to buy farmland in order to build roads and bridges. The Army has been known to buy land and convert it to an area where a soldier could train for war. 

In May, Denver passed a law forbidding concealed weapons in its parks. But a road that runs through Daniels Park belongs to Douglas County, where concealed carry is legal. Critics say this could mean that a person who is carrying a concealed weapon would be legal in one place and breaking the law just a few feet away.

The one dissenting vote came from Douglas County Commissioner Lora Thomas, who warned constituents that the issue was coming in her weekly newsletter.

"(Commissioner) George Teal has insisted that the commissioners have a discussion on Monday at 1:30 regarding use of the county's Eminent Domain powers to take Daniels Park, located in Douglas County between Castle Pines and Highlands Ranch, from the park's owner — the City and County of Denver — because of Denver's recent decision to 'impinge on our Constitutional Rights ensured by the 2nd Amendment.'"

She told The Denver Gazette that she wrote the post after a citizen sent her a screenshot from a GOP Facebook page where Teal threw out his idea for consideration. In the post, which was obtained by The Gazette, he said his idea stemmed from Denver's recent city gun ordinance, which he believes is in violation of the Constitution.

Scott Gilmour, deputy executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation, said that he found out about Douglas County's attack from the media, and Wednesday afternoon had still not received a phone call from anyone representing the county to explain its position. He’s already spoken with the city’s legal team and with the Denver City and County real estate department, which assessed the property at a value of $20 a square foot.

“Do you think the voters of Douglas County are going to pay $800 million for Daniels Park when they get to enjoy it for free?” Gilmour asked. He said that the issue would most likely have to go to Douglas County residents, who would have to decide whether or not to spend the money. 

Daniels Park, which is in Sedalia and borders Castle Pines, has belonged to Denver for more than 100 years and is one of 22 parks in the Denver Mountain Parks system, which are located outside of city limits. It is popular with hikers, used for Indigenous ceremonies, and has a bison herd roaming the property.

In the '70s, an area in the northern part of Daniels Park was designated by the city to the Tall Bull Memorial Council for use in Indigenous ceremonies and educational events. Last year, Denver signed a 25-year agreement to give the group unlimited access to the sacred land. 

Jennifer Wolf, who is Ojibwe, Santee and Ponca, said that Tall Bull Memorial Council routinely use the land to reclaim their culture and remarked that this attempt to seize the park feels like a broken promise. “We've endured 500 years of land grabs, and the fact that Douglas County would consider taking a place of tremendous significance to Native Americans is atrocious.”

A statement that was identified as coming from the Douglas County commissioners Wednesday afternoon, but that Thomas said did not include her opinion, stressed the strong partnership that Douglas County and the City and County of Denver have regarding Daniels Park.

"We are pleased to start conversations with our elected counterparts in Denver as to what it would look like for Douglas County to potentially own and maintain this park in the future.” The statement called the idea a “win-win” for Denver and Douglas County.

But Gilmour doesn’t see this as a win-win. “How can it be a positive for both sides when you have a county talking about using eminent domain against you for your land?” Gilmour said.

Thomas told The Gazette that this is a battle Douglas County doesn’t want to fight. She hopes there’s a way to talk things out. Said Thomas, “It’s a perfect time to pick up the phone, schedule a meeting, and let’s have some discussions." 

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