Chatfield State Park is arguably the ugliest state park in Colorado. It is almost devoid of natural beauty. Yes, you can see the foothills from Chatfield, but this is true of a 50 miles swath of land that runs from Wyoming to Arizona on both sides of the Rockies. But, of course, this isn't why the park was created.
Four floods devistating Denver in three decades the last of which killed nineteen people and displaced countless mobile homes, was enough to convince the Coloradans of the early 1960s that maybe the South Platte River needed a dam upstream from the Mile High City. In truth, tradition has it that the pre-European residents of Denver had been warning the new comers of the risk since before the 1850s. Mayor Speer was quicker, at least, to partially address the threat of Cherry Creek, in his City Beautiful plan. This plan, suitably, made the planning decision to devote the most flood prone land in the city to public park space. But, ultimately the solution to the threats posed by both Cherry Creek and the South Platte had to be state level solutions. The best place to dam each waterway was further upstream than Denver's boundaries.
Given its inauspicious beginnings, the park does serve a purpose beyond preventing waves of destruction from ravishing Confluence Park. It is a playground for people with big toys. There are abundant bike paths, although the predominant lack of shade mans that a camel back is absolutely necessary. The Marina provide a fine place to launch your big, ugly power boat, there is a model airplane field which appeared well used on my recent visit, there are numerous spots where you can camp in your RV, the roadways in the park are in good repair, and there is a swimming area, which, in season, has concessions and toilets. Indeed, toilets, in a distinctive 70s earth mother style, matched by distinctive concrete picnic umbrellas, are never far, in season, which hasn't yet arrived. The staff is nice. And, the Marina restaurant, while overpriced for mediocre offerings (you too can pay Coors Field prices for a hot dog without actually watching any baseball!), is a floating restaurant with sail in service, which is a novelty.
Now, who am I to grudge a venue that keeps flood waters and suburbanites with oversized toys out of my city, while keeping the water flowing from my tap even in droughts? And, without it, my kids might actually grow to believe that the ponds called "Smith Lake" and "Grassmere Lake" in Washington Park, were really lakes. Chatfield may be no ocean or sea, and isn't even a great lake, but it is, at least, one of the few legitmately lake sized bodies of water in the state.
So, surely, Chatfield State Park deserves our continuing support.