City Aims to Reopen Civic Center Park in Mid-November

Closed for now.
Closed for now. Conor McCormick-Cavanagh

The City of Denver is aiming to reopen Civic Center Park in mid-November; it's been closed since September 15, in mid-November.

"We're moving forward, and hopefully we get open as quickly as possible," says Scott Gilmore, deputy executive director of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation.

While Gilmore didn't offer an exact timeline, a parks-use agreement for the Christkindl Market that is working its way through the Denver City Council approval process indicates that Parks and Recreation aims to have the park open for the market by its start date in November. The parks-use agreement lists the permit as valid starting on November 11; an online advertisement shows that the Christkindl Market, an annual event that started twenty years ago and identifies itself as "Colorado's only authentic German market," will be at Civic Center Park from November 19 through December 23.

By November 1, Parks and Recreation will notify the Colorado chapter of the German American Chamber of Commerce, which runs the market, whether the park will be ready for the start of the event.

"I would hope that we could possibly have it open. We do have a backup plan," Gilmore says. If Civic Center Park remains closed in the run-up to the Christkindl Market, then Skyline Park, which is located off the 16th Street Mall and and had been home to the event for years, will be the host site.
click to enlarge Christkindl at its former home off the 16th Street Mall. - KEN HAMBLIN III
Christkindl at its former home off the 16th Street Mall.
Ken Hamblin III
The City of Denver shut down what it advertises as the "centerpiece of Denver's green space" on September 15 owing to health and safety issues that had developed in the park.

“The current challenges within Civic Center Park have reached a tipping point, creating conditions that put the public’s health and safety at risk. This cannot and will not be allowed to continue. This is the people’s park, and we are taking steps so that everyone can once again feel safe and welcomed there," Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement when the planned closure became public on September 7.

The closure has allowed Denver Parks and Recreation to rehabilitate areas of the park that had gotten damaged over the summer. Problems that are still being ameliorated by the department include the "rat issue" and "turf restoration," according to Gilmore.

"Next week, we're going to plant approximately twenty trees that either had been damaged and removed or just died over time. We're also starting to work with the restoration company to clean all the graffiti," Gilmore says.

Even before Civic Center Park was fenced off, the green space was closed at night, with park rangers enforcing an 11 p.m. curfew to prevent anyone from sleeping in the park. Still, people experiencing homelessness would often hang out in Civic Center Park during the daytime.

The City of Denver is currently hiring eight more park rangers and eleven more maintenance workers to work specifically in Civic Center Park.

"Hopefully, it works out to be approximately maybe sixteen to twenty hours a day, seven days a week, that we will have people in the park, cleaning the park," Gilmore says.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.