Colorado’s oldest cemetery feels threatened by new RTD rail line

DENVER -- A cemetery older than the state of Colorado is worried a new RTD rail line could disrupt its operations.

More than 66,000 people rest in peace at Riverside Cemetery at 5201 Brighton Blvd. in Denver.

"It's the oldest active cemetery in Denver," said Michael Long, with Riverside Cemetery. “It was founded in 1876, two months before Colorado became a state.”

But how people have gotten into the cemetery for the past 141 years could be changing.

"It's the only entrance families have ever known," Long said.

And now, those families might have another reason to grieve.

RTD wants to close the gateway to this place of eternal rest because of activity from the upcoming North Metro Rail Line.

"Currently, there are two to three dozen freight rail trips through there. But with the additional RTD commuter rail line through there, there will be over 100 train trips per day. So, it's a safety issue," RTD spokesman Scott Reed said.

RTD has proposed moving the cemetery entrance away from the tracks.

"It's a big change. It's quite a ways from the existing entrance," Long said.

He said the new entrance creates safety issues of its own and could be difficult for visitors to find.

"The multiple turns, sharp curves, provide safety concerns," he said.

Visitors would enter through a road across the street that winds underneath two overpasses, through a steep business parking lot and to a service road that has yet to be built.

"We don't want people to lose interest because of the difficult nature of finding Riverside with the new access. I think it creates a lot more challenges for those families," Long said.

Instead, the cemetery hopes RTD can add new safety mechanisms to the existing crossing.

"That was considered," Reed said.

He said a judge has ruled a new entrance is safest.

"Anytime there is a change, there is resistance to that. We understand the historic significance of this. By the same token, you have to look at safety issues and traffic movements across there," Reed said.

The cemetery is also concerned about who will maintain the new service road to be built to access the property. The cemetery doesn't want to do it and neither does RTD.

The two sides are still negotiating.