BY MATT SALIS
We all love the park. For many of us, it’s the reason we decided to live in this neighborhood. When we live in close proximity to such natural beauty, it’s easy to take it for granted, or forget about all the activities the park makes available to us. There are three lakes in our beloved Washington Park. Three! OK, I’m including the fishing hole by the fire station as a lake, but even if you call that a little pond, there are still three unique bodies of water in Wash Park. There are hundreds of trees, a wide variety of wildlife, a running path around the perimeter and a paved biking and walking road that winds throughout and around. We have access to basketball courts and tennis courts and even a lawn bowling court. There are several beautifully manicured gardens a newly renovated playground. And right in the heart of the park, is the Wash Park Recreation Center.
We all know the rec. center is there, but do we take it for granted, too? Those of us with kids in the neighborhood have watched them play sports in Denver Parks and Rec. leagues through the Wash Park Rec. Center. Many of us have memberships so we can exercise there, and who hasn’t jumped into the rec. center to use the bathroom while on a walk around the park?
But do you know about the My Denver Card program that makes access to the pool, and other activities throughout the year, free to kids ages five to eighteen? Touted as the “key to the city,” the My Denver Card should never be taken for granted. It serves as a library card, gives kids pool access at all the rec. centers across the city, entitles kiddos to special programming on school breaks and opens doors to education and lots of fun. And did I mention it is available for free?
Through the generous support of lots of partner organizations, the My Denver Card gives kids access to some of our city’s most cherished attractions. The Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Art Museum, Denver Zoo, The Denver Center for the Performing Arts and many more offer special free access to kids holding a My Denver Card (check with these organizations for details on their My Denver free access offerings). From library books to polar bears, the My Denver Card opens a world of exploration at no cost for the kids of our wonderful city.
For a look inside the benefits offered by the My Denver Card, I interviewed two of its most enthusiastic supporters – Wash Park neighborhood residents, Joey and Andrew. “I love the freetime activities the card gives me access to,” says Joey. “We can get into the pool for free swim and play basketball when the gym is open for general use.” “I like the programs they run during school breaks,” adds Andrew. “We’ve played capture-the-flag, done arts and crafts, fished for crawdads in the creek outside the rec. center, played frisbee in the meadow and gone to the playground with a big group of kids. On Fridays in the summer, there is a free movie.” “Oh, and sometimes we even have snacks at the rec. center,” adds Joey.
The My Denver Card gives them access to so many activities at the rec. center, that they both have their preferences. But there is one thing on which they can agree. “The pool time is the best!” they say almost in unison.
In 2018, the My Denver program added seniors to the free fun. My Denver PRIME is available to any Denver resident age 60 or older. PRIME is not free two-day shipping on any merchandise ordered from Denver Parks and Rec. online. Even better, My Denver PRIME cardholders have the same free access to rec. centers across the city. We all know staying active as we mature is a key to longevity, and the city we call home is doing everything possible to eliminate any cost barriers to access.
In addition to the Wash Park Rec. Center, we are blessed to live a short drive or bike ride from La Familia Rec. Center, Harvard Gulch Rec. Center, Cook Park Rec. Center and Eisenhower Park Rec. Center. They all have different offerings and activities, and they all honor the My Denver Card as well.
For details on the My Denver or My Denver PRIME programs, to enroll and to find out where to pick-up your card, please go to denvergov.org and search for details on the My Denver program. And don’t forget to check out the websites for all the partner organizations to find out what they offer for free for My Denver cardholders.
Spring break is right around the corner, and summer won’t be far behind. Be sure to check out the expanded programming the My Denver program hosts when the kiddos are out of school. Joey and Andrew will be there, and they sure like to make new friends.
It is easy to forget the bounty we have at our fingertips living in the neighborhood headlined by Washington Park. When you are reminding yourself of the benefits the park provides, don’t forget about the awesome opportunities to be found at the Wash Park Rec. Center. From a pit-stop when on a long walk, to all the activities available to My Denver cardholders, the rec. center in the heart of our park makes us lucky to call our little southeast Denver neighborhood our home.
Matt Salis writes, speaks, podcasts, directs a non-profit, leads an early sobriety program, coaches soccer at Denver South H.S. and runs (very slowly) around the gravel path that surrounds our beloved Wash Park a couple of times a week. Read more from Matt at SoberAndUnashamed.com.