The current Rock Park site of 62.3 acres consists of eight previously separate parcels, acquired as public open space between 1947 and 1991. The prominent Rock received its Castle Rock name in 1859 from David Kellogg, a gold seeker, due to its resemblance to a castle.
The Town of Castle Rock was settled and grew around the Rock from its early settlement days in the 1870s, beginning with the Craig and Gould addition in 1874. The area on the south side of the base was claimed and platted by Philip Wilcox in 1871, but the top of the Rock was originally claimed in 1875 by one of the first European settlers to Castle Rock, William Cantril. The land patent was transferred to Daniel Fitch in 1890, then George Stewart purchased it in 1922, and he retained ownership until his death in 1943. At one time, George Stewart owned part, if not all, of what is now Rock Park and other areas in Castle Rock. In 1947, George Stewart’s heirs deeded the Town 20 acres north of the Rock, and in 1953 they conveyed the top of the Rock to the Town.
In 1957, a trustee conveyed the lots surrounding the top of The Rock. In 1987, the Town acquired approximately 24.4 acres north of the Rock from Columbia Savings & Loan by waiving development fees for 14 single-family home lots. Shortly afterwards, that agreement was extended to include 3.6 acres on the east side for $123,000 (compensation for tap fees from the originally proposed 14 homes). There are two platted tracts on the east side of the park that were acquired by the Town through plat dedications in 1977 and 1991 and a small strip acquired in 1978 from an access easement.
Becoming a park
The acquisition of the 24.4-acre and 3.6-acre parcels in 1987 to create this public open space parcel was partly encouraged by two local residents, Paul Hill and John Emerson, along with other residents and the Town Board of Trustees. Paul Hill was an adjacent landowner and John Emerson was an active volunteer community member. Both individuals were also instrumental in the creation of a special advisory committee in 1988, the Rock Park Committee, which developed funding methods to manage the park and supervised the initial planning and management of the site and its trails.
In recognition of Paul and John’s service and dedication to Rock Park, the two main trails on the property were renamed in their honor.
Part of the evolution of Rock Park includes the creation an all-volunteer group that dedicated themselves to the care, upkeep and improvement of Rock Park. Initially maintained by the Castle Rock Ministerial Alliance, the Keepers of the Rock was founded on July 12, 2004, by project leader Harry Shea.
Keepers of the Rock work in partnership with the Town’s Teen Court and POST Partners Volunteer programs as a way for juvenile offenders to give back to their community through service. Through volunteer maintenance of the Town’s namesake, Rock Park, behavior is redirected to prideful accomplishment and recidivism reduced. The Town funds crew leader training for the program through Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. This partnership, and the volunteer efforts at Rock Park, were featured the Summer 2016 issue of American Trails Magazine.
Keepers of the Rock received the 2017 Community Champion Award from the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association. This award recognizes individuals and groups dedicated to positively influencing and improving the quality of community through parks, recreation and service.
In 2017, Keepers of the Rock applied 11 loads of crusher fines to 1,400 feet of trail in 10 project segments throughout eight work days. Volunteers contributed to 781 hours, equating to $18,853 in labor value. Since the group’s 2004 inception, volunteers have contributed 12,624 hours equating to $304,743.36 in labor value.
In 2017, an application was submitted to create a new zone district for the purpose of updating the zoning classification in Rock Park. Currently, there are no proposed changes for the property. The purposes of this application was to:
- Create a new PL-3 Zone District;
- Consolidate zoning areas within the property;
- Align permitted park uses with the activities and facilities that currently exist.
The new classification, PL-3, defines the park as a natural area and more appropriately conforms to the current permitted uses and limitations within Rock Park than the previous zoning designation, Single-Family Residence District (R-1). The Town is now replatting Rock Park property into a single, consolidated platt. This action marks the last step in the consolidation process.