Drivers cause damage in Ruby Hill Park in rush to sled after weekend snowstorm

After last weekend’s epic snowstorm, dozens of sledders and other assorted riders eager to play on fresh snow at Ruby Hill Park caused damage — possibly stirring up traces of asbestos — when cars, trucks and SUVs were driven off road and around closures, tearing up the turf.

Denver Parks and Recreation staff, along with city and state public health officials, are working to determine how much damage was done and what, or how much mitigation, will be needed. Denver7 first reported the story.

“It could be anywhere from $50 to $100,000 in damage, we don’t know yet, but there is a lot of damage in three different areas,” said Scott Gilmore, deputy manager of parks.

Ruby Hill Park, near West Florida Avenue and South Platte River Drive, is an 88-acre site that includes a terrain park for snow sports, as well as popular sledding hills that have been enjoyed by generations of Coloradans.

The park, and others in Denver, is built over a former landfill, Gilmore said. Ruby Hill is also a former Superfund cleanup site where radium was mitigated and removed in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Ruby Hill is one of our most challenging locations in the city” park system, Gilmore said. “We have a specific management program, or operations plan, that we file with the state. Anything we do in that park has to be approved.”

There is no danger or threat to the public at the park site, the city said. Still, soil and turf samples, exposed by vehicle traffic after the storm, will be analyzed as a safety precaution as part of the recovery process.

As part of a health measure, Parks and Recreation will be on the lookout for “asbestos contamination,” Gilmore said.

The popular park features an outdoor swimming pool for summer months, baseball fields and a concert stage and pavilion. A COVID-19 testing site had been set up in a parking lot at the park until just recently and sledding wasn’t allowed during that time. When testing was discontinued, sledding resumed. The north vehicle entrance to the park has been closed to traffic during the pandemic in an effort to make it pedestrian friendly.

“They drove across the park to get to the parking lot by the pavilion,” Gilmore said.

Denver police on Monday responded to the park and instructed people who had driven around gates and off road to move their vehicles and to stay on open roads, Gilmore said. More than 50 vehicles were involved; some became stuck and those drivers had to pay to be towed out.

“People do enjoy it, and we have to balance access for people,” Gilmore said. “We need to make some adjustments — everybody was so excited by the snow. It was a learning experience for us.”

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