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Chautauqua Park Playground Renovation

Project Background

Chautauqua Park, located at the base of the iconic flatirons of Boulder, is one of only 25 National Historic Landmarks in the state of Colorado. While Chautauqua Park is best known for its arts, culture and educational programs, the community’s recreational activities are also popular, as they were historically. The City of Boulder developed the area northeast of the dining hall as a playground in 1913. During the mid-1980s the current tennis court was added to the eastern edge of the playground.

Chautauqua Playground Renovation Map

In 2019, the Parks and Recreation Department allocated Capital Improvement funds to renovate the playground at Chautauqua Park. The playground equipment has exceeded its life expectancy. ADA accessibility and playground equipment safety regulations are examples of new guidelines that must be followed in the renovation process. Staff recognizes the historic designation of the site and will align the project approach accordingly.

February 2021 Update

Major construction activities at Chautauqua Playground have been completed! Over the past month, the city’s Parks Construction team and contractors have completed the installation of the final playground elements and safety surfacing. Minor elements such as the placement of site furnishings (benches, picnic tables, trash/recycling) will be completed in the coming weeks. Final landscaping, irrigation renovation, and nature play elements will occur in the spring with warmer temperatures. Check out some of the photos below!

Click the thumbnails to view the full version.

The new hill slides and wall mural at the renovated Chautauqua Park Playground.

The new hill slides and Flatiron mural

The completed climbing boulder and large play structure at the newly renovated Chautauqua Park playground.

The "Sixth Flatiron" climbing boulder and large play structure.

A view of the accessible areas of the large play structure and hill slides from the upper sidewalk.

The large play structure and hill slides are accessible via a new upper sidewalk.

A view of the large play structure and climbing boulder from the upper sidewalk.

The large play structure, climbing boulder, small play structure, renovated playhouse, and swings.

A view of the

The "Sixth Flatiron" climbing boulder.

A view of the small play structure

The smaller play structure.

August 2020 Update

After a delayed start to construction due to city-wide impacts associated with COVID-19, staff is excited to announce that construction on the renovation of the Chauatuaqua Park playground is scheduled to begin in the beginning of September and is expected to continue through November. The map below describes areas that are expected to close for either intermittent periods or throughout the entirety of construction.

A map of the areas around the Chautauqua Park playground expected to be closed at some point during construction.

The scope of the playground renovation includes the following: 

  • Replacement of playground equipment and surfacing to meet ADA accessibility standards and safety guidelines and requirements. 
  • New sand play 
  • Addition of nature play features 
  • Seating and climbing boulders that are integrated into the overall playground design 

The renovation is expected to be completed within 2-3 months depending on weather and material availability. During construction, the following impacts will occur: 

  • The playground will be closed during construction. 
  • Pedestrian and bike paths between Sumac Dr. and 12th St. will be closed. Detours will be posted. 
  • Contractors will take reasonable measures to prevent dirt and other particles discharging beyond the work zone; however, visitors can anticipate construction noise and limited airborne dust. 
  • There will be intermittent times of increased construction traffic as materials are delivered or removed from the site. 
  • Construction hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., unless otherwise noticed.

Please use the e-mail sign-up box at the bottom of the page to receive future meeting notifications and e-mail updates.

March 2020 Update

On March 18, 2020, the Landmarks Design Review Committee (LDRC) approved staff's application for a Landmark Alteration Certificate pdf for the reconstruction of the playground at Chautauqua Park. Moving forward, staff is currently reviewing the construction timeline due to the current City of Boulder facility closures and social distancing requirements relating to COVID-19.

January 2020 Update

Staff presented the final preferred concept plan to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on Dec. 17 with a request for approval. The plan was unanimously approved allowing staff to proceed to the next step of submitting a Landmarks Alteration Certificate where Landmark Design Review Committee can weigh in on the design to ensure staff has considered the historic nature of the property.

December 2019 Update

Due to inclement weather the PRAB meeting on Nov. 25 was cancelled to keep our board members, staff and community safe and off the snowy roads. Staff will make the presentation of the concept plan to PRAB to request approval on Dec. 17. Monthly PRAB meetings are always open to the public with memos posted online the Wednesday before each meeting. The community is welcome to provide comment at the beginning of each PRAB meeting.

Staff also presented the concept plan to the Colorado Chautauqua Associations Building and Grounds Committee. There was a general satisfaction with the plan. Staff has requested a letter of recommendation. Once we have a letter stating their satisfaction and if PRAB approves the concept, staff will apply for a Landscape Alteration Certificate.

You will see temporary holiday lights and a warming hut onsite for Winterfest. The warming hut will remain onsite but will be moved to the parking lot to accommodate construction staff throughout construction and will be removed from the site upon completion of the playground renovation. The temporary lighting will be removed after the holidays.

November 2019 Update

Staff presented the preferred concept plan to PRAB Oct. 28 along with a summary and full list of community comments. The full memo can be found on the tan box on the right. Staff will return to PRAB on Nov. 25 requesting an approval of the plan. Monthly PRAB meetings are always open to the public with memos posted online the Wednesday before each meeting. The community is welcome to provide comment at the beginning of each PRAB meeting.

In addition, staff will present the preferred concept plan to the Colorado Chautauqua Association – Building and Grounds Committee on Oct. 21 with request of a letter of recommendation.

Once a PRAB approval and letter of recommendation are obtained, staff will submit a Landmark Alteration Certificate application. The review date will be posted on this page once confirmed.

October 2019 Update

A second joint public meeting hosted by the City of Boulder Parks and Recreation (BPR) and Colorado Chautauqua Association (CCA) was held on Monday, October 14. BPR staff hosted the main presentation about the Playground Renovation providing a summary of the previous community feedback, updated project timeline and the preferred concept plan. CCA followed with a presentation about their proposed Preservation Lab/Maintenance Facility (facility).

CCA Web Page for Information on the Preservation Lab/Maintenance Facility

The presentation for the Playground Renovation can be found below. Please use the digital comment box at the end of the presentation information to provide your feedback by Oct. 21 .

At that time, staff will summarize the feedback for the following presentation of the preferred concept plan to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) for discussion on October 28. Monthly PRAB meetings are always open to the public with memos posted online the Wednesday before each meeting. The community is welcome to provide comment at the beginning of each PRAB meeting.

Powerpoint Presentation from BPR staff about the Playground Renovation

Board 1  provides a summarized history and photos depicting the evolution of the playground area from 1898 to the present.


Board 2  provides the project statement, guiding principles and the updated timeline with a breakdown of the 4 phases. This is an updated timeline from the 1st meeting.

Board 3 and 4 depict the preferred hybrid concept plan based on all feedback from alternative A and B presented at the first public meeting.

          Board 3 focuses on the park features on the periphery of the playground such as

  • full-sized multi-sport post tensioned court allowing for full-sized tennis court, 2 pickleball courts and a basketball hoop
  • creative paths and enchanting nodes north of the playground
  • youth bike skills course
  • bike racks
  • Preferred Concept Plan pdf

Board 4 focuses on the amenities within the playground

  • Play equipment for 2-5 yr olds
  • Small climbing nets on existing rocks and new picnic tables under the American Elm
  • Inclusive light up table tennis game
  • Sand play
  • Bucket swings
  • Inclusive play (all ages and abilities) for a wide range of physical experiences
  • roller bed
  • teeter totter
  • spinner
  • hill slides
  • Play equipment for 5-12 yr olds
  • Climbing net
  • Tower, bridge, slides
  • zipline
  • Artistic Climbing rock for low to medium bouldering skills (mimic of flatiron as customized for space) with movable holds to keep it fresh

Comment period closed on Oct. 21, 2019 to allow staff to digest and summarize.

Comments regarding CCA' s Potential Preservation Lab/Maintenance Facility will be forwarded to CCA.

September Update

A joint public meeting on August 29 was hosted by the City of Boulder and Colorado Chautauqua Association (CCA) providing information on 3 separate but related projects. The main project presented by Parks and Recreations staff was the Playground Renovation. CCA participated with information about their potential Preservation Lab/Maintenance Facility (facility) and the Chautauqua Sustainability and Resiliency Strategy, being developed with the City’s historic preservation program staff.

The phase 2 public meeting was well attended with over 65 participants and many more expressing an interest in the project but unable to attend the meeting in person. To support those interested, all the meeting information was posted online with an opportunity for digital feedback.

The Parks and Recreation Board received an update with the opportunity to provide feedback at their regular monthly meeting on Sept. 23. The phase 2 community and board feedback, site analysis, guiding documents and technical information are being used to develop a DRAFT preferred hybrid concept plan. That plan, including the tennis court, will be shared with the community at a phase 3 public meeting and online in October for feedback before finalizing the project plan. A second round of feedback will be collected at the phase 3 public meeting on Oct. 14 public meeting with an online opportunity from Oct. 15 - Oct. 21.

The Colorado Chautauqua Association (CCA) will also be present at the meeting to discuss the potential Preservation Lab/Maintenance Facility. This project is not managed by the City of Boulder but CCA works closely in partnership with the City and we want to make the best use of your time by sharing our outreach efforts.

August Update

Thank you to all of the community members who were able to join staff at the Aug 29, 2019 public meeting. For those unable to attend, the information boards from the meeting are available below with a comment box at the end to submit your comments for consideration along with feedback from the meeting.  Please leave your comments by September 12, 2019 to be considered in the initial project feedback.

Board 1  provides a summarized history and photos depicting the evolution of the playground area from 1898 to the present.

Board 2  provides the project statement, guiding principles and the updated timeline with a breakdown of the 4 phases. This is an updated timeline from the July update.

Board 3-5 are a sample of photos reviewed to align the feel of the playground renovation with existing site characteristics and to inspire creative ideas.

Board 6  shows the land survey with existing grading and limitations for the renovation. The large water main (with a 10’ buffer on each side) and the notable American Elm (including the drip line to protect the root system) are the 2 more prominent site features that pose limitation to the existing playground footprint. Also noted are the current Colorado Chautauqua Association (CCA) leasehold area and CCA’s potential Preservation Lab/Maintenance Facility.

More information about CCA’s potential Preservation Lab/Maintenance Facility can be found at The role of Parks and Recreation at this point is to consider the possible facility location and design the playground renovation in a way that will not inhibit the possible future of this facility. Questions about the facility will be directed to CCA.

Board 7-8 are the two concept plan alternatives developed to spark discussion and ideas from the community. No decisions have been made, but staff is asking for community feedback to inform future decision-making. Please use the feedback box to submit your thoughts. (Just a note that Nextdoor is a great place to talk to your neighbors online but staff does not have access to those comments. Please make sure your comments are submitted on this page or provided directly to the project manager for consideration in the decision-making process.)

In both plans:

  • The playhouse would be restored and improved
  • The natural area to the north of the park would utilize the current social paths for nature play style components with creative pathways to explore and discover enchanting nodes
  • The American Elm will be protected in the design and throughout construction
  • The parking lot and driveway will remain part of the CCA leasehold
  • There is consideration of a foot path next to the driveway for increased pedestrian safety

Alternate A utilizes a similar footprint as the existing playground with the majority of play features for the 2-5 yr. old age range. Younger aged ranged play features require a smaller footprint and fall-zone.

Staff included some 5-12 yr. old age range features such as a climbing rock and mini zip line.

The tennis court would remain with consideration of converting it to a multi-sport court that could be used for 1 tennis court (youth and adult), basketball and up to 2 pickleball courts.

Alternate B includes many of the same features for 2-5 yr. olds as Alternative A, however, this plan reduces the size of the current tennis court making it a tennis practice area with a backboard, half-court basketball and 1 pickleball court.

The reduced court area would provide space for a universal access play feature to accommodate more 5-12 yr. old play features and create a high level of inclusive play opportunities for all abilities.

A children’s bike skills course would fit the natural topography while accommodating play for a wide age range.

A rope bridge from the playground area to the top of the hill slide.

Comment period closed on Sept. 12, 2019 to allow staff to digest and summarize.

Comments regarding CCA' s Potential Preservation Lab/Maintenance Facility will be forwarded to CCA. Comments regarding the Sustainability and Resiliency Strategy will be shared with CCA and the historic preservation program staff. Links will be posted when more information is available about either of these additional items presented at the meeting.

July Update

Project Process and Approach

  1. Research and Scope Development (June – July 2019).   This phase is focused on gathering background information, assessing existing conditions, and developing the goals and objectives for the project.
  2. Alternative Concept Development (July- August 2019). In this phase, the background information and goals and objectives will shape the draft alternatives for the concept plans. A draft of historic context that provides information on playground area precedent and historic use in that part of the park will be developed. Staff will be seeking input from staff, boards, stakeholders and the community on the alternatives.
  3. Preferred Concept Plan Review (August – September 2019). This phase is focused on developing a preferred hybrid concept plan considering community feedback in addition to existing limitations and regulations required for development.
  4. Bidding and Construction (October 2019 – Spring 2020). This phase is focused on implementation of the preferred concept plan through review of a Landmark Alteration Certificate, permitting, bidding and construction.

Staff is in the early phase of research and scope development for this playground renovation process. Research underway includes but is not limited to:

  • Tree Inventory Assessment
  • Playground Feature Condition and Needs Assessment
  • Tennis Court Condition and Needs Assessment
  • Operational Efficiency Evaluation
  • Historic Documentation Research
  • Communication/Coordination Plan Development with Stakeholders and Community
  • Land Survey
  • Regulatory and Best Practice Priorities

Next Steps

Staff will present the preferred concept plan to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) on November 25 as an action item requesting approval of the plan. Monthly PRAB meetings are always open to the public with memos posted online the Wednesday before each meeting. The community is welcome to provide comment at the beginning of each PRAB meeting. 

Staff will also present the project to CCA Building and Grounds Committee requesting a recommendation on November 21.

Once a PRAB approval and CCA Building and Grounds Committee recommendation is acquired, staff will apply for a Landmark Alteration Certificate. 

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