Off Limits

Colorado Institute of Art student Adam Diaz is a real Playboy. Last month he won the magazine's national College Nude Photography Contest and earned a trip to the company's Chicago headquarters, where he shot a bunny. Next week, his images of a intern splayed on a background of gray silk sheets will be posted on the site.

"I was a little nervous, and then I just got in front of the place and took a deep breath," says the 28-year-old. "People were editing naked pictures in the office, and there were naked models everywhere. It was a weird atmosphere to be in, but it's their nine-to-five job."

If not the real world.

More straight poop: Politicians are experts at the art of the waffle. But sometimes, in their efforts to appease everyone, they actually tell it straight. That's what happened with Denver Parks and Recreation Department manager James Mejia last Thursday, when the finalist for a White House fellowship told the parks department's advisory board that he's considering a couple of options for off-leash dog parks -- but dammit, the matter's just so political.

"Our planners have done a great job in what we asked them to do: a rational plan for a pilot program," he said. "However, that rational and logical thinking needs to go through a political filter."

Ain't that the truth.

Mejia's project managers in charge of the year-long pilot program, Kris Aoki and Britta Herwig, had worked with a roundtable panel representing many interested parties to develop criteria and locations for off-leash dog parks. They studied parks in locales as far away as Australia and as close as Englewood, finally determining that 31 Denver parks fit within the parameters they'd established. They winnowed the list to nine potential sites geographically distributed throughout the city, from the far northeast tip, at Green Valley Ranch East, to central Denver's only possible dog park, in Cheesman Park, to Kennedy Soccer to the south.

Since then, the department has distributed 700 fliers and 400 letters about the project and arranged to host neighborhood meetings for each of the proposed sites (the final two are scheduled for next week). But neither Aoki nor Herwig anticipated the kind of uproar -- pro and con -- that the dog-park proposal inspired ("The Straight Poop," April 10). Both sides have been yapping at each other since January, offering dueling opinions as to how good/evil the parks would be for Denver's future.

The final showdown was scheduled for last week's advisory-board meeting, when the group was expected to give Mejia its recommendation. (While he has the final decision on the pilot program, Mejia has said the issue is big enough that he won't decide without Mayor Wellington Webb's input.) The department even brought in two mediators to help tame any savage beasts.

But that just set off Mary Ewing, Denver City Councilman Ed Thomas's representative to the advisory board. "I don't think we need a facilitator to talk to these people at all. They're reasonable people," she snapped, defending the high-rise residents ringing Cheesman Park who have been vocal in their aversion to looking down on dog runs in what they consider their front yard.

Ewing came armed with photos she'd taken of Denver's only off-leash park, near the pound on South Jason Street. "I saw a brown field. No vegetation at all. I think when neighbors see these pictures, they'd better get used to what they're going to see. We can no longer deny that off-leash will destroy," she said, with all the vehemence people usually reserve for pets and parking.

That led to a slew of laudatory remarks about how Ewing's fact-finding had gone above and beyond the call of duty. But boardmember Donna Hultin saved the meeting before it completely regressed into an ice cream social. "I am very in favor. This is an issue that is not going to go away, and I don't understand why other cities can have this and we can't," said Hultin, the first boardmember to push for the Denver Skatepark. "I don't think Cheesman fits, but I'm not concerned about the high-rise owners. They look at all kinds of things, and that's their problem."

That, of course, sent the remarks scurrying in another direction, with everyone who'd spoken out on the dangers of dog parks -- except Ewing -- scrambling to clarify their statements. They weren't really opposed to off-leash areas, just to dog parks in Cheesman, they said, or they wanted the pilot program calculated more methodically, or they wanted a more workable -- and more vague -- solution.

The advisory board never did make a decision, choosing instead to put it off until next month's meeting. Perhaps waffle cones will be served.

Water, water everywhere: Nineteen drought-related bills have been introduced at the Colorado Legislature this session, sponsored by everyone from Speaker of the House Lola Spradley to Senator Andy McElhany. They've passed a resolution asking homeowners' associations to review their covenants, and another supporting the Department of the Interior telling California to keep its mitts off our water. There are bills designed to teach urban water users how not to be wasteful, and bills increasing well-permit fees.

Now the Red Rocks Community College BioClub has gotten into the action by producing "Colorado Drought for Dummies." The club's four-page handout gives simple suggestions on how to reduce water consumption (keep your shower under five minutes; throw away tissues rather than flushing them) as well as water-use factoids (the average home uses fifty to ninety gallons a day; a garden hose spews 6.5 gallons a minute). Plus, there's an easy-to-read history of the Mitigation and Drought Response Plan.

"There's real simple stuff in there," says BioClub faculty advisor Steven Kaye. "It's on a pretty positive note."

The club had hoped to share their sage advice with high schools and get a wider community readership for the brochure. But then the college's PR folks threw a wet blanket on the idea, pointing out that John Wiley & Sons might be protective of its "Dummies" trademark. "We told them, we're not going to do anything with this brochure until you get something legal saying it's okay," explains Red Rocks spokesman Casey Mahon.

So now the club will introduce "The Average Joe's Guide to the Drought" next Monday, when members sponsor their own Water Day as part of the school's Earth Day celebration.

They're no dummies.


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