Since the early days of the 20th
century, the 165-acre urban sanctuary known as Washington Park has welcomed
families from across the region to enjoy the meadows, lakes, gardens and play
spaces that have made it one of the most popular attractions in Denver’s highly
rated system of parks and parkways.
the surrounding neighborhoods have grown in cachet in recent decades, the
number of people making Washington Park their first choice for recreation or
relaxation has increased dramatically. Legions of runners, skaters and cyclists
have made it increasingly difficult to take a relaxed stroll on park trails and
roadways, while a bastion of athletic clubs and leagues – some permitted,
some not – have taken over large portions of the park’s open space on a
regular basis. Bathroom facilities are insufficient, and a lack of parking
enforcement has overwhelmed adjacent side streets.
of public drunkeness and indecency, disorderly
conduct, verbal assaults on residents and a variety of vehicle-related crimes
have neighbors crying “foul,” and demanding the situation be rectified once and
situation came to a boiling point when 4th of July park crowds, described as
“epic” by one longtime resident, led to even greater disruptions than neighbors
had already encountered. Read about residents’ complaints and the city’s
Wash Park Crowds Upset Neighbors
I intend this to be an official complaint to the parks department,
the police, the office of the mayor, and to my city councilman.
I would love to
hear from any and all of you about abatement actions you have already initiated
or are planning. I hope you all had a great
4th holiday. If you were by any chance in or near Washington Park you know that
it was well used.
live on S. Downing St. facing the park, so I was very aware of the park’s use
yesterday. It was the largest crowd I have seen in the park in the 26 years I
have lived here.
This morning I took a plastic
bag full of empty cans and bottles out of the dumpster in the alley behind my
home. 95 percent (had contained) full alcohol beer, a few 3.2 percent beer, and
some sodas. There were four or five separate urine stains running along the
alley roadway, merging and continuing to the storm drain 15 feet away.
But you know, it is hard not to expect folks will pee in our alley on
their way back to their cars. This morning I (checked out)
the port-a-potty that I usually stop at and it was overflowing with waste.
Not fit for even one more use.
neighbor told me a stranger parked yesterday in the pull-in parking places
behind her home off the alley. She called the police at District 3, and was
told they did not have staff to send someone to issue a ticket. She went out to
confront the man when he came back to his car, and he was rude to her (“Oh, I’m
sorry sweetie. Have a happy fourth!”) and drove off.
was a car parked overlapping the entrance to the alley on Kentucky Ave. when I
went out at noon, and it was still there at 7p.m. when I came home. That
happens almost every weekend. Apparently no police patrols for illegal parking
in our neighborhood.
do not think enforcement in order to catch lawbreakers makes sense.
Individually they are hapless rude youth doing minor offenses. But it is clear
that the Parks department is overwhelmed by these crowds,
and the effects are spilling over into our neighborhood.
the city does not have the money to do either effective policing or sanitation
for these crowds. So, we need to discourage them from being there, at least in
the numbers we are seeing. We need to herd them to somewhere else, just as the
city is herding homeless off the mall.
ideas would seem to help: One would be to amend the alcohol consumption law to
“None” in Wash Park on federal holidays. Couple that with at least some
enforcement of the 3.2 percent beer law on other days (Editor’s
note: Denver Parks and Recreation Alcohol Policy, Rev. 06/01/08, states: “The
consumption of alcohol beverages, other than 3.2 beer, is prohibited at ALL
Parks and Recreation parks ...”), and the number of
folks who want to play in Wash Park would go down dramatically. Why is it that
we can have dog leash enforcement but not alcohol enforcement?
idea would be for Parks to rescind the special permits in effect for volleyball
tournaments in Wash Park, and not issue new ones. The justification for this
administrative move would be the need to control order in the park. It is the
crowds associated with volleyball play that are causing the problems.
alternative would be for the city to bite the bullet, find the money, and
require the same of themselves that they do of special event sponsors: adequate
sanitation facilities for the anticipated use of the park, and adequate
policing for the crowds, on federal holidays.
think that y’all could probably come up with even better ideas than I did if
you think about it for a minute. After all, this is OUR Neighborhood, isn’t it?
Reallocate Funds For Safety’s Sake
(Editor’s note: Following are excerpts from a
more detailed letter, edited for space.)
John Ferguson has expressed more politely and eloquently than I
would the sentiments many of us in our neighborhood have been feeling.
understand the fiscal restraints, however, I question allocation of resources
– such as spending so much on the Occupy Denver situation (I have no data
to offer, but several times when I drove by there when it occupied the news,
there were less than 50 people in the “camp”) – and then not being able
to monitor our parks when thousands are in attendance? Teams of policemen work
I-25 for speeders and DUI offenders; they could sit in chairs on Downing Street
and write tickets (read: revenue) and make arrests all day long – and actually
be helping the community.
do these things, it is part of living where we do, and we understand that.
However, the lack of any monitoring presence, adequate facilities, locked
facilities while port-a-potties are overflowing – is very frustrating.
For-Profit Events Paying
(Editor’s note: Following are excerpts from a
more detailed letter, edited for space.)
I will start by saying both John and John stated things more
politely and eloquently than I am going to.
was told there are only two Denver park patrol officers for all of the 200-plus
Denver Parks; is that true? If so, that is crazy! Here are some of my thoughts
and observations on raising some funds to get more park officers (outside of
the taxes we pay for services). How much of a fee do the various
“entrepreneurs” charging money to individuals, such as Volleyball of the
Rockies, pay the city? That company charges $350 or so per team, does the city
see a part of that? I was told they have about 100 teams – which is about
$35,000 – and as taxpayers, we have the right to know how much the city
gets of that, for using Denver parks.
they are advertising on public property. Do the other organizations such as the
“boot camps,” etc., pay to use the public park? Does anyone promote using any
of the other parks? If you want to raise revenues, have the little white
parking jeeps do a few rounds at the right times in the neighborhoods around
Wash Park and KA-CHING! A serious money-making
you want a real money-maker, set up DUI stops (around)
the park and you might stop some wrecks and maybe save a life in the process.
If they had kids leaving the park do breathalyzers, it would be frightening to
see what the percentages would be. This is just a terrible situation that is
getting increasingly worse. It must be handled before it returns to days of
Wash Park circa 1970s-80s!
Leagues Should Move To Other Parks
Do not be fooled, this is not merely a parking
issue. Denver parks made a major mistake in designating Wash Park a volleyball
park and allowing (these teams) to take over our park
and our neighborhood. Families do not go to our park on weekends like they used
to. My four kids used to regularly go to the park and bike on weekends and now
they often cannot even be in their own backyard because of what they can see
over their back fence from their play set. Obviously we can’t take them to the
park when the volleyball league has attracted so many drunk, foul- mouthed
individuals. We are not safe in our neighborhood anymore.
Parks administration ... Get rid of this volleyball league immediately. Move it
to another park for the sake of our neighborhood kids! Fix the problem you
created. Don’t just offer us some permitted parking – that’s not going to
Parks & Rec Replies To Park Issues
Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Palmer,
Thank you for your email regarding alcohol and sanitation issues at
Washington Park. It is the Department of Parks and Recreation’s
responsibility to provide safe, clean, enjoyable outdoor environments
for our citizens in our parks and clearly, there are issues within Wash
Park that are challenging those standards.
Please allow me to respond regarding actions we have taken
recently, and those we will take going forward to reach those standards.
In the past three months, we have taken the following actions to
help address some of the parking, sanitation and over-use issues:
1. Since June, we increased the number of san-o-lets from 8 to 10,
and increased the frequency of servicing to every day, and an additional
cleaning on Saturday. This cost DPR an additional $1,700 per month but
it was an expense we needed to take on. On July 4th, we had all three
park restrooms open (Boathouse, middle of the park, and tennis courts),
and the Rec center restroom was open.
2. We have provided our Park Rangers with the attached flyer to try
to begin to educate the volleyball players about the rules of the park.
Permitted events with more than 100 players are required to provide
their own, additional san-o-lets.
3. We have contacted City & County of Denver’s Parking
Enforcement division to request increased patrols in the area on
weekends and they report there have been additional staff in the area
during peak hours.
4. We permitted a number of events last November for the July 4th
weekend and we honored those permitted events. Since June, however, we
have limited the number of permits issued on weekends based upon park
capacities and event organizers’ estimation of attendees. In my
estimation, the number of permits issued for the past weekend, shown
below, was reasonable:
• June 30 – 4 picnic areas; no permit for a run/walk; no permit issued for Volleyball areas for a tournament;
• July 1 – permit for the Big Garden – wedding and reception in Boathouse;
• July 4 – permits issued for the 4 picnic areas, permit issued for
the Liberty Run – 500 participants; no permit issued for Volleyball
areas for a tournament; permit for the DMB concert in the evening.
1. We will post a map on all of the san-o-lets that shows all of the san-o-let locations and plumbed restrooms.
2. Parks staff is empowered to call for additional servicing of the
san-o-lets this weekend (July 7 & 8) if the need exists. We will
monitor san-o-let usage this weekend and if there is continued demand,
we will provide additional locations starting the following weekend.
3. I have spoken to Commander Montoya and Denver Police Department
(DPD) is assigning an overtime officer to enforce alcohol, public
intoxication and other park rules, at Park’s expense, so there is no
impact on emergency service calls for DPD. They will be assigned both
Saturday and Sunday this weekend, then one weekend day per week through
July. Following that additional enforcement, I will re-
assess based upon impact and need.
4. I have asked for and we will receive overtime staff from Parking
Enforcement this weekend during peak park hours. Park-ing Enforcement
typically does not ticket in the area on Sundays, but I have asked for a
waiver from that policy to deal with parking issues in the Washington
5. We will not schedule additional volleyball tournaments in
Washington Park until we can assess the impact of these issues, most
likely through August. However, the events scheduled already will be
permitted to conduct the tournaments since these events were permitted
many months ago. We have directed our Park Rangers to make contact with
event organizers regarding parking, alcohol and acceptable park
6. We are contacting known drop-in volleyball organizers and strongly suggesting they visit some of our other,
under-utilized parks that are close by, like Veterans Park and Ruby Hill Park.
For your information, the following events are permitted through
July and August and we will provide increased enforcement during these
1. July 14 – Volleyball areas #1 and #4 in meadow for volleyball and
area #2 (near the VOC) permitted for a ladder ball tourney with 75
2. July 21 – Volleyball areas #1 and #4 in meadow;
3. July 28 – Area #3 near lawn bowling area;
4. August 25 – Area #1 and #4 for Volleyball tourney.
Regarding the prohibition of alcohol, the Department is not planning
to review this policy in Washington Park, nor city-wide, as the
community discussion that occurred a few years ago was extensive. We
honor that community decision, and will continue to enforce park
violations where we see them. Our Park Rangers are on the cusp of
gaining Administrative Citation authority, after approved by City
Council, which will provide additional fines and enforcement on
regulations that previously only carried warnings.
Lauri Dannemiller, Manager
Denver Parks and Recreation