Wheat Ridge embodies the deep roots of a City with a rich history and a strong sense of community. Wheat Ridge “roots” were first established during the Gold Rush of 1859, when the City served as a rest stop for miners headed to mountain gold camps. It was later named Wheat Ridge for the golden ridges of wheat noted by travelers passing along the Overland Trail. As unsuccessful miners returned to the area and began farming the rich, fertile soil, the community began its growth. Wheat fields were converted to fruit orchards and vegetable farms across the Denver area. Eventually fruit and vegetable farming gave way to greenhouses and the largest production of carnations in the world, earning Wheat Ridge the designation of “Carnation City.”
Prior to incorporation as a City in 1969 and establishment of a parks and recreation department, the Wheat Ridge Recreation District and the Prospect Recreation District were responsible for the acquisition and development of several parks in Wheat Ridge. At incorporation the Wheat Ridge Recreation District was dissolved and the City became responsible for the district’s assets, which were located on the east side of Wadsworth. The City also received any park assets from Prospect Recreation District that were inside the new city boundaries. These assets were located west of Wadsworth and included Prospect Park.
Clear Creek, which travels through the entire length of the City, west to east and the surrounding land areas were identified by both districts as a unique community resource and an ideal location for a system of parks and greenbelt trails. Through time, and using the City’s appropriated share of Open Space funds, Jefferson County Open Space grant funds, and a Great Outdoors Colorado Legacy Grant, Wheat Ridge was able to acquire large tracts of land along the creek to be preserved as open space.
The City of Wheat Ridge has continued to evolve since its incorporation in 1969. Since that time the Department has completed acquisitions and increased programming to meet the needs of residents. These needs have been identified through the years by the adoption of master plans, which have served as a planning document for capital improvement projects as well as land acquisitions.
Wheat Ridge was one of the first cities in Colorado to be awarded the “Tree City USA” designation based on extensive tree planting performed by the City in the late 1970s, as well as the development of a tree ordinance and an arborist board. In 1982, the City was also designated a “Green Survival City” by the American Association of Nurserymen for its achievements in city arbor management.
Shortly after incorporation, in 1972, the Wheat Ridge Volunteer Fire Department constructed the Anderson Building. This prefabricated metal building served as the City Council Chambers, city offices and recreation center (gymnasium). Council Chambers and city offices were moved to the current municipal building when it was built in 1978, while the Anderson Building continued to serve as the main recreation center for the city.
In 1979, the City constructed the first outdoor public pool in what was then named Wheat Ridge Park. The outdoor pool was connected to the Anderson Building with the construction of a link or new lobby that served both the Anderson Building and the bath house of the pool. The pool was largely constructed with federal Land and Water Conservation funds through a grant process.
Wheat Ridge Park was later renamed Anderson Park, in the 1990’s after the first mayor of Wheat Ridge.
In 1980, the City acquired a former church (First Baptist Church of Wheat Ridge) located at 35th and Kendall, for the purpose of providing a senior center. A program was developed and it grew from weekly potlucks held at the Wheat Ridge Methodist Church to a comprehensive recreation program. The building was remodeled and additional square footage was added in 1985 to meet the growing demand for programs for this segment of the population. It was renamed the Active Adult Center in 2010.
In November 1998, the City began construction of a 69,000 square-foot recreation center, which opened in February 2000. The newly constructed Wheat Ridge Recreation Center would now serve as the main recreation center for the city, although the Anderson Building is still in use for specific recreation programs.
Today, Wheat Ridge encompasses approximately 10 square miles of area, with approximately 173 acres of developed park land and an additional 300 acres of open space.
Wheat Ridge is also home to three National Historical Sites and one Colorado State Historical Site. The Wheat Ridge Historical Society, in cooperation with the Colorado Historical Society and the City of Wheat Ridge, operates the Wheat Ridge Historic Park, which includes the Sod House and Baugh House. The Colorado Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) also makes its home in the historic Richards-Hart Estate, owned by the City and operated by WRPRD.
The department’s assets provide citizens with places to engage and connect with other community members. Parks and open space provide a chance to commune with nature; they create a sense of community and a feeling of belonging. The presence of parks increases quality of life for residents and the City of Wheat Ridge with numerous types of park and open space environments. A thriving park system is a status symbol and creates pride among city leaders and residents alike.
Wheat Ridge Parks and Recreation is committed to offering quality parks and recreational opportunities to the community. If the parks themselves are the soul of the city, then the services provided in recreation programs are the spirit. These programs promote personal growth and well-being and support LiveWell Colorado’s Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) campaign that the City committed to being a part of in 2014.
Services provided by the Recreation Division including aquatics, athletics, fitness and wellness, enrichment programs and therapeutic recreation are an integral part of a vibrant and connected community. It is the department’s responsibility to ensure residents continue to view these assets and their benefits as the valuable resources they are.