Congress Park Pool Clock Stolen, City Calls Out Recent Park Behavior | Westword

Congress Park Pool Clock Stolen, Denverites Called Out for Recent Park Behavior

"These people just do not respect the public realm," blasts Scott Gilmore, deputy executive director of Denver's Parks & Recreation Department.
The digital swim clock at the Congress Park Pool was added in 2022 as part of a $10 million renovation.
The digital swim clock at the Congress Park Pool was added in 2022 as part of a $10 million renovation. Evan Semón

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On Friday, July 21, someone hopped the fence at the Congress Park pool and stole its digital swim clock, part of a $10 million renovation completed in 2022.

Add that theft to a laundry list of recent problems that Denver Parks & Recreation has been dealing with. "It's sad at this time where we have individuals that do not value our park system," says Scott Gilmore, deputy executive director of Parks & Rec. "These people just do not respect the public realm."

The Congress Park clock theft went down sometime after the city-run pool closed at 6 p.m., according to Gilmore. People visiting the pool over the weekend noted that the clock was gone and questioned lifeguards about what happened; they said that an individual was caught on camera hopping the pool's fence and stealing the clock. The loss was reported to the Denver Police Department on July 24; both the DPD and Parks & Rec declined to release the video.

On Monday, July 31, police told Westword that the clock had been "returned undamaged and still functional." Parks & Rec refused to press charges against the individuals involved, according to DPD spokesperson Jay Casillas.

"It sounds like the suspects are juveniles," Casillas said. "This case will be closed."

The theft just adds to the challenges that Parks & Recs is currently facing, including Denver's water fountain debacle — in which numerous water fountains have been broken by vandals or shut down because of staff shortages — and a major shutdown of public bathrooms, also because of vandalism.

"We wish that people would respect and take care of the park system like the employees and a majority of the public in the city do, but there's always those individuals that don't hold our public spaces," Gilmore says. "They don't hold those public spaces in the place that they should."

In mid-July, Parks & Rec reported that someone had stolen all of the copper tubing from the Ruby Hill Park bathrooms. Over the past month, there have been at least ten portable toilets in parks lost to vandalism; over the past sixteen months, there have beenfour instances of explosive devices being set off inside Washington Park toilets.

Images released by the city and published by CBS Colorado on July 21 show graffiti scrawled on bathroom walls, damaged doors and toilets, and purported drug paraphernalia. Still, Gilmore insists that the parks system is in good shape — citing numerous honors and achievements, including a jump in the Trust for Public Land's ParkScore rankings from No. 18 to No. 15 this year.

"Our park system is not in bad condition," Gilmore says. "There are incidents in our park system, as always. You know, there's some vandalism, there's some destruction, there's some theft. But we try to get out there as quickly as possible and fix those items and make sure that the parks are safe and beautiful for all the people that do go to the parks and want to enjoy them. But I would put our park system up against any park system, not only in this country, but the world."

Gilmore believes the recent string of incidents could be the result of "younger people" not respecting or caring about public spaces, or the fact that taxpayers fund them.

"As they get older, maybe they start to realize — as they start to pay taxes and realize where their money is going — they start to appreciate and realize that these are their public spaces," he says. "They own them. So all they're doing is tearing up what they own. It's not like they're tearing up somebody else's property."
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