While protesters gathered in front of City Hall Monday to protest the upcoming ban on urban camping, another group was gathering by the tiny triangular space at 23rd and Lawrence streets, a spot officially known as Eddie Maestas Park, but most often called the Bumuda Triangle.
Especially since Maestas's family asked that his name be taken off this mess -- and the sign was removed last summer, when the city started looking for a way to clean up what had been meant as a tribute to Maestas, a man who helped push this part of upper Larimer as a business area, but also had a big heart for the homeless. Instead of a tribute, though, it has become a trash heap.
Denver's homeless challenges are only starting. The urban-camping ban may be a tool that can be used to keep the 16th Street Mall open for business, but it will push more of the homeless into nearby areas...and up to 23rd and Lawrence, which is right by many of the shelter providers. Shelters that are not open during the day, which is when people gather in the park, stacking their boxes and bags and shopping carts. It starts filling up at 7 a.m. every morning -- after the parks employees have cleaned out all the trash from the day before -- and starts emptying when the shelters open at night, before the park, like all city parks, becomes off limits at 11 p.m.
I wrote about the city's attempts to clean up the park last summer, after the Maestas family had asked that Eddie Maestas's name be removed. At the time, the city was considering signing on with the nearby Denver Rescue Mission to run the park.
But the discussion has grown since then, as a committee of stakeholders -- including Urban Market Partners and the Ballpark Neighborhood Association -- developed a unique metropolitan district, the Community Coordinating District No.1, to come up with a more comprehensive plan for the area that includes Eddie Maestas Park. They've considered turning this sliver of park into an art spot, a gated retreat, an information center at the heart of the rapidly changing neighborhood.
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On Monday, May 21, this group and the city will hold a public work session at 5:30 p.m. at RedLine, the gallery at 2350 Arapahoe Street where neighbors have been gathering every Monday to talk about possibilities. And they're looking for more: the CCD has been holding a unique, virtual town hall on the topic for the past few months, and just introduced a contest for the best idea for the park, with a deadline of June 15. Find out more at www.communitycoordinatingdistrict.com.
Do it for Eddie.
Why did Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks introduce the urban-camping ban? Find out in " Councilman Albus Brooks discusses the proposed ban on urban camping.".