Certain Denver Parks Warn Adults Without Children to Stay Away

A sign at Governor's Park warns adults to stay away from the playground unless accompanied by a child.
A sign at Governor's Park warns adults to stay away from the playground unless accompanied by a child. Thomas Mitchell
Denver Parks and Recreation has posted signs at certain playground areas warning adults to stay away unless they're accompanied by a child.

The signs, currently up at Governor's Park and Sonny Lawson Park, inform adult visitors that they must be accompanied "at all times" by a child in order to be there. According to Parks and Rec deputy manager Scott Gilmore, the notices were put up after both parks had to close temporarily because of unsafe conditions. These conditions included trash, human waste, regular drug use and marijuana consumption, Gilmore says, as well as a heavy presence of hypodermic needles.

"It stems from a lot of social issues on the playground we've been having for the past two years, and things our staff is seeing," he says. "They're raking through the wood chips on the playgrounds, looking for needles."

Parks and Rec rangers have found dozens of needles at one time at Governor's Park, according to Gilmore, and a hypodermic needle prick requires an intensive regimen of blood tests and antibiotics to screen for and prophylactically treat infectious diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The signs were placed as a preventative safety measure so the department could allocate resources and rangers for the rest of the park system, he adds.

The signs aren't legally enforceable, however, and deciding who presents a threat is up to the rangers. Gilmore says park rangers are generally liberal about the guidelines and will only issue citations for illegal behavior. But Parks and Rec has the power to issue a temporary emergency order to enforce a sign's rules if the department feels it's necessary.

"Technically, it's really not [enforceable]. If somebody is in there and they're swinging or something, we're not trying to keep people from having fun. If some people are on date night and they want to sit on the swing enjoying Governor's Park, that's totally fine. If someone is in there doing something illegal, though, we'll enforce that," Gilmore explains.

He says that Parks and Rec recognizes the role of parks to fulfill a public need. However, the signs and attention are largely centered on playgrounds, and lone adults hanging around those areas will spark concerns for rangers.

"It's a playground designed for children, so do we really want adults hanging out there alone?" he asks.

This isn't the first time Parks and Rec has posted signs at playgrounds dissuading adults not accompanied by children from hanging around, Gilmore says. The same signs were posted at Speer Boulevard Park in the past, as well as at Quality Hill before it was turned into a dog park. He also points to similar efforts in cities across the country, as well as a rule at the Children's Museum of Denver banning adults from visiting unless they're accompanied by children.

Signs at Civic Center Park ordering visitors to stay off the grass areas and other specific areas when events aren't taking place were erected over similar public health and safety concerns, Gilmore confirms, but he says those signs are legally enforceable.

The signs will stay up at Governor's and Sonny Lawson parks "until we start seeing complaints about it or my lawyers tell me to take them down," or if the public safety in those areas improves, Gilmore says.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell

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