Eddie Maestas Park is an insult to the Ballpark pioneer's memory

Two city crews descended on the triangular park bounded by Broadway, 22nd and Lawrence just after 6 a.m., the eight workers gingerly picking up the trash — bags and bags of trash, stuffed with everything from human feces to used syringes — before the park started filling again. But it was like bailing the Titanic with a teacup. The shelters had already opened their doors, and people were pouring out onto the sidewalks. Those who hadn't found a bed indoors — there's always a shortage, even on warmer days — were emerging from the nooks and crannies where they'd spent the night, claiming their bit of sidewalk or park for the day.

A block away, at the corner of 23rd and Larimer, a cadre of cops was holding up a man who was having a tough time holding up his pants.

Decades ago, the building behind them was a popular dance hall, where Eddie Maestas met his future wife, Helen. Eddie, his nine brothers and sisters and his parents had moved from Leadville to Denver when Eddie was twelve. His father got a job at the Hungarian Flour Mill down by the train yards; his mother ran a Mexican joint on Larimer, where German and Italian and Irish restaurants had come and gone before. Eddie practically grew up on this melting pot of a street. He worked as a shoeshine boy and, after graduating from North High School, got a job with the Ricotta brothers, who owned Western Beef, at 2048 Larimer. Johnnie Ricotta also had a grocery store at 2030 Larimer — in a storefront that had once housed a Chinese laundry — and when he decided to retire in 1975, after forty years in the business, Eddie bought the place

But Eddie didn't just run the store. He wound up running the entire neighborhood. By then, the redevelopment of Larimer Square six blocks away had pushed the city's skid row up into this area, and Eddie fought hard to stop the slide. He helped set up the Larimer Square North Merchants' Association back when the most prosperous merchants were all pawnshops, and in the process earned the unofficial title "Mayor of Larimer Street."

"I'm real optimistic about everything going on," Eddie told me back in 1997, shortly after he'd been diagnosed with leukemia and closed his store. "I see nothing but good for this area. I just hope God gives me enough time to see it through."

God had given him enough time to see Coors Field open just a few blocks away in 1995; although far more powerful backers had pushed two other proposed sites downtown, the old warehouse district was a hit with Denver's major-league team and its fans. Enough time to see Larimer Street become a vital part of the new Ballpark neighborhood, complete with a historic designation that prevented developers from tearing down the Victorian storefronts and turn-of-the-last-century warehouses and replacing them with parking lots. Enough time to see those developers instead start filling those buildings with loft projects and swanky offices and nice bars and restaurants. Johnny's Market went full circle and became an Irish bar, Scruffy Murphy's, where many hipsters now end their nights.

The dance hall where Eddie Maestas met Helen is today the home of Snooze, where those same hipsters start their days.

But Eddie passed away before he could see the culmination of all those changes, as this stretch of Larimer came to embody where Denver is going as well as where it came from. He didn't get to see Edward J. "Eddie" Maestas Park dedicated on November 2006, after Denver City Council approved one of the longest ordinances ever presented to that body, penned by urban planner Karle Seydel, the first director of the Larimer Square North Merchants' Association. Seydel, who'd pushed so hard to bring the ballpark to this part of town, didn't live long enough to see those changes, either; he passed away last spring, shortly after the start of his beloved baseball season.

Which means that neither of them was there to witness the sad day last summer when the "Eddie Maestas Park" sign was taken down at the request of family members dismayed by what was happening at what's now been unofficially dubbed the "Bumuda triangle."

One of five triangular traffic islands created when the Broadway corridor cut through downtown almost a century ago — part of Mayor Robert Speer's City Beautiful project — by the early 2000s the park was an ugly patch of dirt and asphalt sprouting nothing but despair. The Denver Department of Parks and Recreation came up with a $300,000 plan to renovate the spot, making it much more attractive to look at — but with its prickly groundcover, much less attractive to loitering. Or so city officials thought. But trouble quickly took root.

"Poor policy decisions now intersect there," says Denver City Councilwoman Judy Montero, who is working with city and neighborhood groups to dismantle the plan she helped create six years ago and come up with a more realistic proposal. "Everybody just deserves better."

By last year, Eddie Maestas's relatives weren't the only ones concerned about the condition of the park. Patrons heading to twelve, to Snooze, to Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria, to the resurrected Star Bar, didn't appreciate getting panhandled. Even the homeless complained that they were being preyed on by drug dealers and other predators while they sat in the park, waiting for the shelters to reopen for the night.

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1 comments
Ray Denonville
Ray Denonville

This is by far the smallest park in the United States. There is a police camera mounted on a telephone pole at the northwest corner of the park. The police camera can pan, zoom and record everything going on in the park. There is more drugs sold in this park than any other park in the United States. It is by far the world's smallest park, every square inch of the park can be viewed by the police camera. Why then is there more drugs sold in this park than any other park in the United States? Denver is a very corrupt city, more corrupt than Chicago. Denver is a land-locked Little Chicago. Someone is making money. On any given day, in four hours I can on my bicycle figure out who is supplying the park with drugs. That's why the police threw my bicycle and I in the park and locked my bicycle to a bench, threw me in jail on false charges and stole my bicycle. I represented myself pro-se. The city attorney, public defender, county court judges and Chief of Administration of the Denver Police Department John Lamb are all corrupt. They stole my Bianchi Road Bike and conspired thinking they could hold me in jail long enough to evict my photographs of the Light Rail Train running red lights from my apartment to the sidewalk by the Sheriff. I filed motion for Discovery with the City Attorney's Office. Discovery was delayed until after the court date. I called 911. I was attacked. The City Attorney put the name of the attacker on the tape as the caller. I clearly spelled my name to the dispatcher. All charges were dismissed. My negatives were ransacked, they didn't find the 3,500 negatives of the Light Rail Train running red lights through every signalized intersection in Downtown Denver. To see some of my photographs of the Light Rail Train running red lights online, please Google my name Ray Denonville.

 
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