Washington Park can be cleaned up without banning beer, says councilman Charlie Brown
Denver City Council member Charlie Brown (in hat) at a hearing earlier this year.
Should 3.2 beer be banned in Washington Park? Two weeks ago, Denver City Councilman Chris Nevitt suggested the city try banning beer in Wash Park for six months in order to combat drunken behavior; he sent that request to Laurie Dannemiller, director of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation. And at a public meeting on April 10, both Nevitt and Dannemiller outlined the reasons for such a ban. But plenty of those in attendance argued against this move -- including council member Charlie Brown, whose District 6 actually includes most of the park and surrounding neighborhoods.
Brown doesn't believe that prohibiting beer consumption in the park will solve the problems that park-users and neighbors are citing: rowdy drunkenness, public urination, unruly partying, trash. "I don't think it's the right strategy," Brown says. And he sent his own letter to Dannemiller on April 10, offering other suggestions for how to fix the park -- and still let people enjoy beer there this summer. See it below.
The first step, Brown says, is to make people more aware of the problem. One of his suggestions includes creating ads to post around the park, with embarrassing photographs of people who have caused issues while drinking at the park. "Nobody wants a picture with their fly open or their pants down," Brown wrote to Dannemiller.
And even though park rangers are issuing warnings -- 1,200 last summer -- Brown doesn't think that's enough. "It's beyond the warning stage," he says. Instead, the troublemakers should be given tickets for public intoxication right off the bat, with stiff fines. "You have got to hurt them in the wallet," he maintains.
Other suggestions from Brown? Have the Denver Police Department's mounted patrol cover the park, place portable message boards with warnings for park-users about forbidden behavior and create a loading zone to alleviate some of the parking problems.
And if DPD District 3 commander Joe Montoya thinks it's a good idea, Brown adds, a "detox wagon" could be parked close by to haul off intoxicated park-goers.
All of those measures make more sense than a ban that would also adversely affect responsible park users, he maintains: "If there's a concert, and people bring a picnic basket and bring wine, that doesn't bother me at all."
Brown hopes to hold another public meeting on the issue soon. But in the meantime, the Department of Parks and Recreation says it could issue its decision on the issue as early as today.
Here's Brown's letter:
From our archives: "The light stuff -- does it make sense to ban low-alcohol beer from restaurants?"
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.