Washington Park alcohol ban meeting: Freedom and responsibility versus urine and vomit

Over a hundred residents of Washington Park and beyond made their way to the Denver Baha'i Center last night to debate whether or not the park should put a temporary ban on alcoholic beverages -- specifically 3.2 beer, the only liquor allowed there.

The crowd seemed evenly divided, with half of those in attendance agreeing that a ban should be put in place to solve some of the problems in the park and surrounding areas, while the other half argued that the ban wasn't the right fix.

Councilman Chris Nevitt, who proposed the ban, and Denver Department of Parks and Recreation director Lauri Dannemiller presented their rationale for why alcohol should be temporarily prohibited from the park. In his initial letter to Parks and Rec suggesting a ban, Nevitt said that his constituents are constantly complaining about unruly drunkards.

Councilman Chris Nevitt mediates the Wash Park meeting.
Councilman Chris Nevitt mediates the Wash Park meeting.
Melanie Moccia

After he made his arguments, Nevitt acted as a mediator. "Let the games begin!" he shouted, before letting people come to the front to speak into a microphone. He held a stopwatch to make sure that each speaker kept to the prescribed time of two minutes.

Many people in the crowd who live within a couple of blocks of the park complained of people urinating, tossing trash, defecating and throwing up in their yards. One woman described feeling like a prisoner in her own house.

To help alleviate these issues, Parks and Rec had put more portable toilets in the park and also hired more park rangers to control the area. But according to many nearby residents, those efforts are no longer cutting it.

People on the opposing side of the issue, though, argued that banning alcohol isn't going to get people to stop drinking, a favorite activity in the summer. The city needs to do a better job of policing the park, some said. One gentleman suggested having Wash Park sell its own beer in order to better regulate consumption.

During the discussion, other concerns came up -- and there was one on which almost everyone could agree: There's not enough parking in the area. Nevitt pointed out that people headed for Wash Park can park at South High School on the weekends. When one person complained that the school's parking lot was too far from the park, Nevitt responded that it was "pathetic" a park-goer couldn't walk a few blocks.

The debate went on for about ninety minutes. Next week, Dannemiller is expected to announce whether the temporary ban will be put in place.

More from our News archive: "Washington Park alcohol ban pushed to address "belligerent drunken behavior"."

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