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South Suburban Parks and Recreation District

We are a community-driven organization that provides both indoor and outdoor recreation amenities to six communities and three counties in the southern metropolitan area of Denver, Colorado.

 

Who are we?

Formed in 1959, South Suburban Park and Recreation District is a regional provider of parks and recreation services, and serves approximately 157,000 residents in the Town of Bow Mar, Town of Columbine Valley, City of Littleton, City of Sheridan, City of Centennial west of 1-25, City of Lone Tree, and unincorporated portions of Douglas County, Jefferson County and Arapahoe County

South Suburban is a special district; which is a local government, i.e., political subdivision of the state. 

Boundaries
The District encompasses 46 square miles, including the City of Lone Tree in the southeast section of the district to the City of Sheridan in the northwest. Anyone who rents or owns property within the District boundaries is a District resident and enjoys resident benefits and pricing. South Suburban’s facilities, programs, and classes are open to those who live outside the district at nonresident pricing. 

In early 2018, the inclusion to the District of RidgeGate East in Lone Tree was completed. The developer will begin development of the property in 2020. 

See the District’s boundaries on our maps sectionRidgeGate East in Lone Tree will be added shortly.

Amenities
District amenities include four recreation centers; one entertainment center; one community center; two ice arenas, each with two sheets of ice; four golf courses; three 18-hole miniature golf courses; 50 tennis courts; a BMX track; batting cages; athletic fields; 100+ parks; 61 playgrounds; more than 3,800 acres of parkland and greenways; and nearly 100 miles of trails. South Suburban offers a wide variety of programs for tots to seniors to exercise their bodies and minds, make social connections and hone their talents in art, performing arts, martial arts and more.

Governance
A Board of Directors, comprised of five elected SSPR residents, governs the district. Members serve staggered four-year terms, with a term limit of eight years. The board adopts policies, and the executive director is responsible for implementing those policies and overseeing all operations.

Jurisdiction
Our purpose is to develop and maintain the parks, trails and open spaces within our boundaries and to offer a variety of recreational opportunities. We work with a variety of local, regional and state-wide organizations that have jurisdiction over areas related to parks and recreation in order to achieve our mission. Some of those organizations include:

  • Colorado Parks & Wildlife oversees all wildlife in the state, including deer, foxes, and coyotes. They also stock our ponds and lakes with fish. 
  • Denver Water owns and operates the High Line Canal. We manage and maintain the portion of the High Line Canal Trail within our borders. Denver Water is also responsible for running water through the canal, and intermittently runs water between April and Oct.
  • The municipalities and local law enforcement agencies within our boundaries set and enforce, respectively, local laws that govern behavior in our parks and recreational facilities. When using our parks, trails and recreational facilities, please be aware of both our usage rules and local laws.

History
The Arapahoe County District Court officially approved the formation of the South Suburban Metropolitan Recreation and Park District on October 30, 1959.

From its inception, the district has been a citizen-driven initiative. In the late 1950’s, several civic leaders sparked the idea for a large public park when 273 acres became available for purchase at the former Fort Logan military base. They envisioned a large public park that would rival Denver’s City Park. Their vision expanded as they imagined a parks organization supported by citizens residing within its boundaries. This parks organization would plan and construct additional public parks and develop recreational programs for the enjoyment and benefit of the entire community.

In July of 1959, a citizens committee formed and circulated petitions to residents within the proposed district requesting support for a property tax for parks and recreation. They submitted the required signatures in early October.

The District’s original territory encompassed some 55 square miles of Arapahoe County west of the Valley Highway (i.e. I-25), Englewood, Sheridan, Littleton, Greenwood Village, Columbine Valley, and Bow Mar, and part of Denver; servicing approximately 45,000 citizens.

Although the Fort Logan land never came to fruition, the concept it represented served as the catalyst to fulfill the ultimate vision of those initial dreamers.

To learn more about the District’s history, see A Brief History of South Suburban.

Funding
In the 2020 Budget, the total budgeted revenue from all funds is $79,952,334. The District receives funding through a mix of sources: 39% property tax, 34% user fee programs revenue, 4% miscellaneous revenue, 5% grants and donations and 18% from debt proceeds.

On average, a home valued at $300,000 pays about $14.95 per month for district parks and recreation services. Of that $14.95, $7.33 goes to maintenance/capital outlay, $4.63 parks, trails and open space, $2.69 administration, and $0.30 for The Hudson Gardens & Event Center.

Learn more about our budgets on our Reports, Audits & Budgets page.

What guides us?

We are guided by our 2017 Master Plan and 2017 Strategic Plan - comprehensive, District-wide plans that serve as the foundation of our community-driven vision for the next 10 years, and we are led forward by our mission, vision, values, and principles below.

Our Mission
To foster healthy living through stewardship of the environment, parks, trails, and open space and by providing recreational services and programs. We do this with more than 3,800 acres of natural open space and nearly 100 miles of trails right around the corner from where you live.

South Suburban helps residents explore close-to-home opportunities for mind body wellness, to seek out new activities, new amenities and to enjoy every moment of their free time. 

Our Vision
To foster a culture of quality facilities, professional staff and exemplary services that enhance the quality of life in the communities they serve, now and into the future.

Our Values

  • Professional: Have the competency and skill to carry out our mission with honesty and dedication.
  • Active: Be a constant presence in the community by providing services and facilities that inspire recreation and play.
  • Innovative: Incorporate sustainability, stewardship, recreational trends, and our community’s current and future needs into our organization’s practices.
  • Inclusive: Incorporate the different needs of our diverse community and our partners into our work and decisionmaking.

Our Principles
We are led by four guiding principles - broad initiatives describing what we aspire to achieve:

  • Quality First - We aim to consistently create positive experiences for our community.  Our most important task is to improve the quality of our offerings and customer service.
  • Enrich Wellness - We prioritize wellness by offering close-to-home and affordable indoor and outdoor recreation opportunities to a diverse community. Wellness strengthens bodies, engages minds and refreshes a person’s spirit. We recognized that within SSPRD, different regions need different recreation opportunities.
  • Connect to Nature - We provide access to open space, natural areas, and water recreation while balancing stewardship of these natural resources.  Recreating in nature fosters healthy living and provides benefits to emotional and physical well-being.
  • Lead Sustainability - We support sustainable practices for managing South Suburban’s financial, physical and natural resources.  Well-maintained amenities require long-term financial investments.  Energy and water efficient operations and maintenance increase our capacity to protect natural resources and invest more in our recreation offerings.

How do we serve our communities?

Parks and Open Space
South Suburban Park and Recreation District has more than 100 parks for residents and visitors to explore and enjoy, from neighborhood gems like Willow Creek and Cherry Knolls parks to regional favorites like Cornerstone Park and deKoevend Park.  Most South Suburban parks offer a variety of amenities including a playground, shelter, and ballfield. Some parks also include tennis courts.

Creekside Experience and Reynolds Landing, both located in Littleton, offer nature-based playgrounds. Creekside Experience is the District’s first open space nature play park and features nature-experience elements including a tree house overlook; boulder scramble; sand play area; a log, stump and boulder trail.

South Suburban is committed to continually improving its parks and amenities with input from the public. In late summer 2017, South Suburban made improvements to the playground at Little’s Creek Park, adding separate play areas for kids, 2 - 5 and 5 - 12 years of age, and replacing the existing park benches. In 2016, a brand new outdoor Pickleball complex was constructed at Cornerstone Park, and new playgrounds were constructed at deKoevend Tot Lot, Hunters Hill Park, Arapahoe Park and Writer’s Vista Park.

Green, well-maintained parks add to the quality of life and increase property values. Parks provide a place to play, escape, relax and connect with others.  Dogs, supervised by their owners, can enjoy romping off-leash at the Wynetka Ponds Park.

Our Parks Staff maintains and manages parks and playgrounds through routine mowing, irrigation, safety checks and maintenance. Overall, the District manages more than 3,800 acres of developed and open space park land.

Open Space
The District maintains approximately 2,500 acres of open spaces, which is comprised of native grasses and natural grass that is not necessarily native to Colorado and was planted for livestock forage long ago.  Our more prevalent native grass is also the state grass, Blue Gramma Grass. Our open spaces are also full of wildlife and wildflowers

Maintenance of open space includes natural areas, storm water channels, rivers and creeks, trail corridors, turf park borders with native vegetation, lakes, and ponds as well as private property boundaries and natural play parks. We also partner with and coordinate work with local HOA's, storm water authorities, public works departments and utilize some grant funds to help supplement our dedicated resources.

Some recent figures from our parks and open spaces include:

  • In 2017, we budgeted $290,000 to maintain our open spaces and natural areas, which roughly equates to $116 per acre.
  • It takes around four weeks to complete one mowing cycle of the District’s natural open spaces, and our mowing crew averages 3 cycles a season.
  • The Natural Open Space Maintenance team restores approximately 30 acres of open space and trail corridor annually. These areas are typically damaged by contracted improvements, utility construction work, and localized weather erosion.

To see all of our parks and open spaces, visit our comprehensive parks list.

Trails
Parks, trails and open space are practically synonymous with South Suburban; and they are the life blood of the District. South Suburban Parks and Recreation manages and maintains nearly 100 miles of trails throughout the District. From highly used regional trails like the Mary Carter Greenway to recreational favorites like the High Line Canal Trail and Willow Creek Trail, South Suburban ensures the trails are well maintained for all users’ enjoyment. Both crusher fine and concrete trails are found throughout the District.

Trail connectivity is vital in helping people get to where they want to go – work, school, parks, shopping, and the recreation center, without the danger, hassle or interruption of busy cross streets. The District’s goal is to continue to provide a network of trails across the District for walking, running, walking the dog and commuting and recreating. 

In 2017, the District completed the High Line Canal Bridge Replacement Project. Three bridges were replaced at locations along the High Line Canal Trail in Centennial and Littleton, and a brand new bridge was constructed to improve access to the favorite trail and recreational amenity. 

In addition to the major trails below, the District has local trails and park trails. And some District parks have trail loops; trails that are one mile or less, or 1 - 2 miles in length. 

The District’s Major Trails: 

  • Bear Creek Trail
  • Big Dry Creek Trail
  • Centennial Link Trail
  • Columbine Trail
  • Cook Creek Trail
  • High Line Canal Trail
  • Lee Gulch Trail
  • Little Dry Creek Trail
  • Littleton Community Trail
  • Mary Carter Greenway Trail
  • Railroad Spur/Mineral Ave Trail
  • Willow Creek Trail

In recent years, the District completed the last phase of the Centennial Link Trail which made it possible to get from the Bluffs in Lone Tree to Goodson Recreation Center in Centennial.  The District installed the Littleton Community Trail allowing north-south access in the City of Littleton from Slaughterhouse Gulch to Ridgewood Park. The District expects to complete the East Bank segment of the Mary Carter Greenway Trail from West Oxford Avenue south to West Union Avenue in summer 2018. The trail meanders through Sheridan, Englewood, and Littleton.

Recreational Facilities
South Suburban Park and Recreation District offers four, full-service recreation centers; a community center, the Lone Tree Hub; the South Suburban Ice Arena with two sheets of ice; and the Family Sports Center complex which includes, an entertainment center, an ice arena with two sheets of ice, a restaurant; a 9-hole golf course; an 18-hole miniature golf course and a sports dome.

The District operates four outdoor pools, Ben Franklin, Cook Creek, Harlow, and Holly, which is adjacent to the Holly Tennis Center. It also operates the County Line BMX Track, the 36-hole Colorado Journey Miniature Golf Course, batting cages and pickleball courts at Cornerstone Park, several skate parks, a disc golf course at West Fork Open Space, and a nature center at South Platte Park.

In addition to the amenities at the Family Sports Center, the District also maintains three other golf courses, the Littleton Golf and Tennis Club, which includes an 18-hole course, restaurant, and indoor tennis center, the Lone Tree Golf Club & Hotel, which includes an Arnold Palmer, par-72 championship course, restaurant, wedding venue, event rooms, 15-room hotel and tennis center, and the South Suburban Golf Course, which includes a 9-hole, par-3 course, a full 18-hole regulation course, and a new clubhouse.

The four recreation centers are Buck Recreation Center in Littleton; Goodson Recreation Center in Centennial; Lone Tree Recreation Center in Lone Tree; and Sheridan Recreation Center in Sheridan.  All recreation centers, except Sheridan, have indoor pools. Daily admission includes drop-in fitness classes, cardio equipment, and access to weight room, free weights and bar bells, pool, gym, Pickleball, an indoor track and racquetball courts. Each recreation center has its own personality.

  • Buck Recreation Center, located just east of downtown Littleton, features the area’s only warm water therapy pool and is headquarters to the District’s Older Active Adult Program, which offers programs, classes and trips and tours for those age 50+.  Buck also is home to the STAR (South Suburban Therapeutic Adaptive Recreation) Program for people with disabilities and offers year-round programming and social events. 
  • Goodson Recreation Center is centrally located within the District and is just steps away from deKoevend Park and the High Line Canal Trail. The District’s Pottery Studio is located here, along with the Goodson Pottery Guild. Goodson has the largest enrollment of SilverSneakers® in the state. The program is available through many health plans and offers a variety of fitness classes for free to those 65+. Child Discovery Time, a licensed preschool program for children ages 2½ - 5 is operated at Goodson.
  • Lone Tree Recreation Center is our newest recreation center and features a lap pool, leisure pool, water slide, and lazy river. Summer camp is offered here, and Child Discovery Time, a licensed preschool program for children 2.5 – 5 years of age runs during the school year. Free summer concerts and other activities take place at Prairie Sky Park next door.
  • Sheridan Recreation Center features The Creativity Lab; a dedicated room filled with a variety of mixed media, art materials and found objects for creating a variety of art projects, including sculpture, collage, sewing, painting, drawing and more. Adjacent to the Center is the Sheridan Skate Park and Sheridan Community Park and ball field.

Some recent figures from those facilities include:

  • South Suburban Ice Arena had 200,000 visits to its facility in 2016 with 125,000 participants out on the ice.
  • Family Sports Center had 225,000 patron and spectator visits in 2016, not including golf.
  • For the 21 years that the Sports Dome has been operational, the staff has collected enough used athletic tape on the field to cover the entire Sports Dome ceiling.
  • On average there are 1,077,500 rounds of mini golf played each year at Colorado Journey, which equates to over 431,000 miles walked on the course.
  • From Jan - Aug 2017, the Goodson Pottery Studio sold over 4 tons of 25 lbs. bags of clay, the same weight as a male hippo!

Recreational Programming
We offer thousands of recreational programming for all ages each year. These programs cover a variety of areas: active aging, arts, aquatics, childcare/day camps, dance, education and enrichment, fitness, golf, nature, sports, and therapeutic and adaptive recreation.

Some highlights of those activities include:

  • South Suburban’s Adult Hockey program serviced over 1,700 adult skaters in 2016.
  • Over the course of our annual six-race series, our participants have run enough miles combined to go from Denver to Oklahoma City, OK.
  • If you took all the summer camp supplies used this year at The Creativity Lab to make wind chimes and placed them end to end, you would almost make it out of Sheridan Recreation Center’s doors to Buck Recreation Center – 15,000 feet of waxed string, 2980 keys, 69,930 plastic beads and 700 hot glue sticks or 3.27 miles worth for over 1,500 campers!

To see our recreational programming, visit our online catalog.

Other Facilities and Amenities
In addition to the parks and recreation offerings described above, South Suburban also has an orchard, an Administrative office, a service center and maintenance center, and 23 school partnerships/shared use agreements for a total of 75 acres.

The District also has an entity that is fiscally dependent upon it, The Hudson Gardens and Event Center. Hudson Gardens operates 16 separate display gardens, an event center which hosts programs on educational and cultural activities, numerous weddings, and a summer concert series. The District purchased the land, including certain permanent structures on which Hudson Gardens operates, in 1998.

How do we manage our resources?

Sustainability
We’re committed to being stewards of our environment and have implemented a variety of processes and technologies to help us improve water quality and conservation, energy conservation, recycling and waste diversion, air quality, and human and environmental health.

Some highlights, include:

  • Installation of state-of-the-art irrigation and building control systems that save water, energy, maintenance, and staff time.
  • Use of recycled materials in playgrounds, fences, benches, infill for synthetic fields, and top soil.
  • Purchase of 725 solar panels in two local solar gardens.
  • Implementation and the use of GIS technology to develop routing plans and combining trips to reduce trips, miles traveled on vehicles, improve efficiency, and save money.
  • Tree plantings along the South Platte River to improve the habitat, environmental quality, and aesthetics of this heavily traveled corridor.
  • Use of Xeriscape design principles in tree, shrub and perennial beds and the use of native or site‐adapted plant selections to conserve water.
  • Wetlands projects on the creeks, streams, and lakes have been installed to clean water before it is put back into the drainage system.

Learn more about our sustainability efforts on our Sustainability page.