Courtesy of Tim TiptonFor two days, the additional presence of police officers and Parks and Recreation maintenance workers has occasionally dwarfed the numbers of actual occupiers at Civic Center Park. Since Saturday's riot, officers have increased their numbers at the occupation in efforts to monitor the group, but Public Works and Parks and Rec employees joined on Monday when they noticed graffiti in the park. The freelance art added to the area is an unwelcome addition given Civic Center Park's $3 million in renovations last year.
During a routine check-up on the park, city officials discovered evidence of paint, felt markers and chalk on the sidewalk and structures Tuesday morning. Their concern was not, of course, with the chalk, which has maintained a consistent role as a way for protesters to express their opinions over the past few weeks. It was the paint and marker residue they objected to, in large part because it can be both difficult and expensive to remove from Civic Center's historical balistrades and walkways.
"We discovered some extensive tagging on the historic sculptures and structures in the park, which clearly we need to go in and clean up right away before it has time to soak in," says Kathy Green, communications director for Denver Parks and Recreation. "Our parks maintenance team went in yesterday and assessed the damage to the structures and the sculptures. The three tools that were used -- paint, chalk and markers -- are all against park policy, and there was a sense of urgency for the silver paint and felt markers."
The clean-up process will take a few days and involves extensive power-washing in the areas that aren't too delicate to handle it. This week marks the first time Public Works and Parks and Recreation have teamed up on an extensive clean-up of the park during the occupation, as well as the first time the two parties have decided it needs one. "We've seen other general damage and trash in the park, but this is the first time we felt the need to go in immediately," Green says. "I don't think the chalk was something we're concerned about, but this went to the next level. Your heart breaks when you see it because it was all restored last year."
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In the meantime, Green says, several Occupy Denver protesters have volunteered to assist in the clean-up process, and none of the maintenance workers have reported any problems with the group. "Our park rangers have gone down there periodically and haven't had any problems," Green says. "They've been greeted kindly and with requests to help out and clean the park."
The department did, however, report the tagging to the Denver Police Department's graffiti investigation team, if only because the act can come with a criminal mischief charge. The DPD's investigation is ongoing. In the meantime, the main concerns for Public Works and Parks and Rec are the costs of the clean-up and the possible toll on the park.
"On our side, I know we're in the thousands of dollars so far, and we're not done," Green says. "Last year, taxpayers paid $3 million to restore and revitalize it, and it's the heart of the city. Public Works has also been out, and I don't know their totals."
More from our Occupy Denver archives: "Occupy Denver: Man pulled over and ticketed for two or three honks in support of protesters."