Denver's big green PR machine has been running on all (solar, renewable and hamster-powered) cylinders as the city administration counts the days (probably on a calendar made from recycled pulp-fiber paper) to the 2008 Democratic National Convention — supposedly the most environmentally friendly one in history, according to Mayor John Hickenlooper. And on Wednesday, in celebration of both Earth Day and Arbor Day, the area around the Pepsi Center, where the convention will take place August 25-28, was set to get greened up by assorted volunteers planting more than 150 trees along the Auraria Parkway.
Whether those trees stay upright is another matter. Over the past seven years — we cannot tell a lie — the trees along Auraria have been chopped down not once, but twice. The first time was in 2001, to make room for a box-seat view of the Grand Prix of Denver — a short-sighted decision that created a backlash when foliage-loving citizens complained about the vroom service. Most of those trees were eventually replaced (with money from the now-defunct Grand Prix), but with only one species, hawthorn, and many of those trees subsequently died or became sickly. So in the past few months, according to Denver Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Jill McGranahan, more than 160 trees have been removed.
"The thought process behind the Mile High Million," she explains, referring to the city's overarching, twenty-year tree-planting initiative, "is the right tree in the right place in the right way. For instance, you don't plant huge trees under power lines. Those hawthorns weren't designed for that area, where there's a lot of pollution and not a lot of irrigation. This will make it more robust and more successful."
Still, at least one tree won't be quaking at the thought of sinking its roots by the Pepsi Center. Because the Colorado Avalanche finished off the Minnesota Wild in the Stanley Cup playoffs on Saturday, St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman will have to make good on a bet by planting a Colorado Blue Spruce in front the Xcel Energy Center in that city in time for the Republican National Convention, which lands there September 1. If the Avs had lost, Hick would have had to plant a Northwoods Red Maple in front of the Pepsi Center.
Urine trouble now: Trees came in handy at Washington Park over this past weekend, when the dog-owning, Frisbee-tossing, beer-drinking masses came out in droves to enjoy the sunny weather. The men's room in the shed-like structure near Mississippi Avenue was closed — leaving only one porta-potty by the rec center, which had a constant line, so many boys looked to nature when they heard the call. And those males who were not willing to risk an indecent-exposure arrest crowded into the women's room, making for an unusual mix of twenty-something drunk guys, moms and their preschool-age daughters. Needless to say, neither the three stalls nor the floors or sinks were in good shape by dusk.
The parks department's McGranahan assures Off Limits that the situation wasn't the city's attempt to encourage social networking. Rather, it resulted from a simple plumbing problem, and the parts are on order.
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And by parts, she doesn't mean more trees.
Scene and herd: On Monday, state representative Doug Bruce was kicked off the House podium after he called migrant workers "illiterate peasants" during a debate over temporary visas for seasonal farm workers. The Colorado Springs Republican's choice of words and his subsequent banishment unleashed a wave of comments over which was worse: a) the comment itself; b) censorship; c) politically correct pandering; or d) the fact that thirteen million illegal immigrants live below the radar in this country.
The answer is actually e) If Bruce weren't around, we wouldn't have nearly as much fun at Westword, where he has now become the unprecedented three-time winner of Shmuck of the Week, a weekly online feature. To find out what other Shmucks you've missed so far in 2008, click here.