Sugar Beet Park


Sugar Beet Park is a profoundly impactful park to the residents of Fort Collins, particularly to Mexican/Hispanic residents of the Tres Colonias neighborhoods, where basic infrastructure, transportation, and open space needs have a history of neglect. As a cultural bridge, the park celebrates the rich heritage of the sugar beet in Fort Collins, a large and quirky vegetable that transformed Fort Collins into the nation’s largest sugar producer in the early 20th century. With a brightly colored wooden vegetable as the centerpiece, the park restores honor and significance to those who labored in the sugar beet fields; recognizing the unmistakable contributions of migrant workers to the economic and cultural development of the city, while creating a fun-filled, enriching park environment enveloped by a native Colorado landscape.


History and Context

Fort Collins joined the “beet boom” in 1903 when the Great Western Sugar Company opened a sugar factory along East Vine Drive. Sugar beets require precise planting, thinning, and harvesting, and thus a large labor force. Great Western Sugar Company actively recruited workers to northern Colorado to work the beet fields, including German-Russia and Hispanic/Latino workers. Many of these workers lived in the surrounding communities of Buckingham, Andersonville and Alta Vista, commonly referred to as “Tres Colonias”. These neighborhoods are some of the oldest in the city and foundational to the growth and prosperity of Fort Collins in the early 20th century. The Fort Collins sugar factory closed in 1954 after struggling with years of drought conditions, high production costs and increased competition from cheaper sugar sources like cane sugar and corn syrup. The sugar beet industry and the contributions of the people who worked in the fields and factories indelibly shaped the character of Fort Collins.

Over the last century, the Tres Colonias neighborhoods remained predominantly working class, Hispanic/Latino and were geographically and economically isolated from the rest of Fort Collins.  Until recently, the neighborhoods lacked much of the public infrastructure other parts of the city take for granted including sidewalks, sanitary sewer, adequate stormwater/flood mitigation, parks and access to public transit.

Recognizing a need to better engage Tres Colonias residents, the City implemented an extensive community engagement strategy in development of the 2014 Lincoln Corridor Plan, a significant corridor adjacent to the neighborhoods.  Through door-to-door outreach, walking tours, neighborhood picnics, open houses, neighborhood surveys, listening sessions, and the establishment of a neighborhood advisory committee, new efforts were made to create a sense of place based upon residents’ collective histories and contributions.  Out of these efforts, the need for a new park was identified.

Purpose and Approach

A centerpiece of the 5.3-acre park is a 12’-0” tall custom designed sugar beet play structure. Constructed of brightly painted wood, the iconic play structure provides a striking visual and tactile experience for visitors, luring them into the park. Other beet themed wooden play structures flank the structure, creating a unique and memorable play environment.

In addition, the playground includes a zip line, swings, and large spinner. An oversized pavilion for community gatherings, common in the Latino culture, provides ample space for large gatherings or events. An intimate lawn area with shade trees flanks the playground and pavilion edges, creating plentiful space for parents to spread a blanket and enjoy the park while keeping an eye on the kids.  The pavilion and restroom include natural daylighting and exterior materials reminiscent of the Great Western Sugar Company building.

Train tracks utilized in historic City Park for a children’s ride were repurposed in Sugar Beet Park, referencing the rail cars used to haul beets into the factory. Three oversized rail car wooden benches create an interactive environment for visitors, as children work to safely push the benches up and down the track. A trellis artwork, entitled “Conveyor”, rises above a section of the train track, as silhouettes of sugar beets playfully interact with the rolling benches below.

Rich and textured rows of plantings border the pavilion and terrace, welcoming visitors as they enter the park, and visually connecting the park to the historic Great Western Sugar Beet building to the west.

A large community pollinator garden, the first of its kind in Fort Collins, anchors the northern edge of the park. The pollinator garden was developed and funded in partnership with the Nature in The City program, with the specific goal of providing more natural spaces within the urban fabric of the city.

A central green is dual purpose, providing a space for sporting events and stormwater detention for the adjacent Streets Maintenance facility. A basketball court is located on the west edge of the park.

Playful and fact filled interpretive signage is provided in both English and Spanish, educating visitors about Fort Collins unique sugar beet heritage, and outlining the many benefits pollinators provide.

Environmental Sensitivity and Sustainability

The pollinator garden features hundreds of native plants that create habitat for people and pollinators. Native plants provide food and nesting materials uniquely suited to support native birds, butterflies and bees. As pollinators are on the decline nationwide, the garden inspires and informs visitors regarding the needs and benefits of pollinators and pollinator attractive plant species in the community.

Turf areas in the park are limited to areas where sports are played, significantly reducing the irrigation footprint of the park.

Native seeded areas envelop the western edge of the park, integrating seamlessly with an improved wetland that filters and captures particulates and sediment from the snow storage area at the adjacent Streets Maintenance facility before entering the storm sewer system and ultimately the Poudre River.

Special Factors

“The Hand that Feeds” sculpture anchors the east edge of the pollinator garden, capturing views from ninth street and welcoming visitors from the Alta Vista neighborhood into the park. The sculpture was funded exclusively from a Hispanic community advocate, who led a fundraising effort for the full cost of the sculpture. The sculpture brings renewed awareness and attention to the back-breaking work required of the sugar beet field workers, as they stooped to cultivate the crops utilizing a short handled hoe. Many growers believed the short handle hoe made workers more careful and kept crops from being damaged. Also, supervisors could quickly tell from a distance whether farm laborers were working or resting. Many Mexican and Hispanic families came to the area to work the beet fields, enduring poor working conditions, low pay, and discrimination. The sculpture and associated plaza stand as a vivid reminder of this history.

The Museum of Discovery, a City operated facility, hosted “Once Upon a Playground”, a visual tribute to the iconic play structures common in playgrounds throughout the United States between 1920 and 1975. Prior to installation in the park, the iconic beet play structure made its debut in the museum as a part of this traveling exhibit. Special accommodations were made in the museum to provide for a fully functioning indoor play environment, which was a huge attraction for the exhibit during the winter months, boosting attendance numbers significantly, and creating excitement and anticipation for residents as they learned more about the sugar beet industry and the new park that was coming soon.

Landscape Architect’s role

The landscape architect acted as the primary park designer, leading a team of engineers, architects, and artists. The landscape architect prepared design drawings, construction drawings, managed the construction contract and supervised construction.

The landscape architect managed the lengthy and involved community outreach process, which began with the Lincoln Corridor Plan, followed by the formation of the neighborhood advisory group. This process regularly required the landscape architect to proactively navigate sensitive cultural issues.

The landscape architect represented the project to the community at large, including City Council, community boards and to the press. Working with City staff, the landscape architect collaborated extensively with the artist and private fundraisers through the development of “The Hand that Feeds” sculpture.

Acting as the owner’s representative, the landscape architect was ultimately responsible for all aspects of the project.


The project is immensely meaningful and impactful to all residents of Fort Collins, but particularly to the Fort Collins Hispanic population, as it celebrates the contributions of immigrant workers and the profound impact they had shaping the community. Design was an effective and responsive tool to sensitive cultural issues, raising awareness and helping to build bridges between cultural divides. The park is heavily used and dearly loved by residents today.

Plant List

Deciduous Trees

  • Shumard Oak
  • Espresso Kentucky Coffee Tree
  • Turkish Filbert
  • New Horizon Elm
  • Prairie Sentinel Hackberry
  • Net Leaf Hackberry
  • Chokecherry
  • Rocky Mountain Sumac
  • Curlleaf Mountain Mahogany
  • Silver Buffaloberry
  • New Mexico Privet
  • Utah Serviceberry
  • Columnar English Oak
  • Japanese Tree Lilac
  • Big Tooth Rock Mountain Maple
  • Purple Catalpa
  • Chinkapin Oak
  • Autumn Splendor Buckeye


Evergreen Trees

  • Pinyon Pine


Perennials and Ornamental Grasses

  • Filigree Daisy
  • Hidcote Blue English Lavender
  • Moonbeam Tickseed
  • Blackeyed Susan
  • Blonde Ambition Blue Grama
  • Boulder Blue Fescue
  • Thin Man Indian Grass
  • Mexican Feather Reed Grass



  • Mock Bearberry Manzanita
  • Dwarf Lead Plant
  • Grow Low Sumac
  • Rubber Rabbitbrush
  • Leadplant
  • Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany
  • Mountain Ninebark
  • Three Leaf Sumac
  • Wood Rose
  • Fernbush
  • Winterfat
  • Littleleaf Mock Orange
  • Western Sandcherry


Pollinator Garden Perennials and Ornamental Grasses

  • Pink Nodding Onion
  • Western Pearly Everlasting
  • Littleleaf Pussytoes
  • Fringed Sage
  • Showy Milkweed
  • Butterflyweed
  • Drummond’s Milkvetch
  • Creeping Mahonia
  • Blacksammon Echinacea
  • Prairie Smoke/native avens
  • Maximillian Sunflower
  • Hairy Golden Aster
  • Rocky Mountain Blazing Star
  • Dotted Gayfeather
  • Bigelow’s Tansyaster
  • Beebalm
  • Large Beardtongue
  • Sidebells Penstemon
  • Rocky Mountain Penstemon
  • Prairie Coneflower
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Giant Goldenrod
  • White Heath Aster
  • Aromatic Aster
  • Golden Banner
  • Soapweed
  • Big Bluestem
  • Sideoats Grama
  • Blue Grama Grass
  • Buffalograss
  • Needle and Thread Grass
  • Idaho Fescue


Seed Mixes

  • Upland Native Seed Mix: Sideoats Gramma, Buffalograss, Blue Gramma, Inland Saltgrass, Bottlebrush Squirreltail, Switchgrass, Western Wheat, Little Bluestem, Alkali Sacaton, Sand Dropseed
  • Rain Garden Seed Mix: Sideoats Gramma, Buffalograss, Blue Gramma, Green Needlegrass, Indian Ricegrass
  • Turf Grass Sod: VorTEX Hybrid
  • Native Turf Sod: Buffalograss and Blue Gramma Sod

Documents and Media

Planning Docs (if applicable):