Denver decides against Washington Park beer ban

Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown's newsletter will be a little late today. That's because when the Mayor's office learned that Brown was about to break the news that the city had decided against a temporary alcohol ban in Washington Park, located in Brown's district, the city moved up a planned press conference to announce the steps it's taking to deal with problems in the park to 2:30 p.m. today. But while the press conference is taking place a day early, the announcement is actually coming two weeks later than the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation had initially promised. The call for a six-month prohibition was originally issued by Councilman Chris Nevitt, whose district includes neighborhoods west of the park. In an early April letter sent to Laurie Dannemiller, head of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, Nevitt asked for a temporary ban on 3.2 beer at Washington Park -- the only alcohol allowed in any of Denver parks -- because of "belligerent drunken behavior" both in the park and in nearby neighborhoods. Nevitt wrote:

Over the last several years...acceptable inconvenience has metastasized into an almost constant barrage of unacceptable abuse. As you know, last summer, my office and yours fielded a constant stream of complaints: trash strewn across the park and in surrounding neighborhoods; overflowing portable toilets despite multiple additions of toilets by your office; belligerent drunken behavior in the park and in surrounding neighborhoods; loud and occasionally violent confrontations; public urination in the park and in surrounding neighborhoods; cars parked in front of driveways and blocking sidewalks and alleys; shouting matches in the street between nearby residents and park users parked, peeing, or littering illegally. Not only have these issues had profound impacts on the residents living adjacent to Washington Park, but they have also seriously eroded the vital family-friendly quality of one of our City's finest parks.

Opposition to the proposed ban sprang up immediately, and on April 9, Nevitt and Dannemiller addressed a meeting of residents and park users; Brown was also at that meeting, but did not speak. Both Nevitt and Dannemiller told the audience that they supported the ban; Dannemiller's office promised a decision the next week. In the meantime, Brown sent his own letter to the city, suggesting other ways that Washington Park could be cleaned up -- without banning beer. And at a less-publicized follow-up meeting the next week that Brown attended, the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation revealed the proposed beer ban was off the table and the city would instead make some changes to improve the situation in the park.

Brown notes in E-mail Express, his soon-to-be sent newsletter: "Many of the items on Councilman Brown's list were incorporated into the plan being implemented by Denver Parks and Recreation."

According to that plan, DPR will implement the following changes by Memorial Day weekend:

• Establish a drop-in permit system for volleyball and other multi-person organized activities on weekends and holidays. • Increase the servicing of existing portable bathrooms and make plumbed bathrooms available for additional hours, including after-hours for Washington Park Recreation Center bathrooms. • Direct park visitors to the availability of loading and unloading zones and free parking in the South High School parking lot. • Place permanent and moveable signage around the park to remind park users and visitors that only 3.2 percent beer, and no liquor or glass, is allowed in the park. • Increase right-of-way enforcement in the adjacent neighborhoods to ticket vehicles illegally parked in driveways or in handicapped spaces. • With signage and volunteers in place, Denver Park Rangers will view rule violations, including alcohol violations, with less tolerance and issue more citations for violations. • Increase Park Ranger patrol; deploy two full-time rangers in Washington Park on weekends. • Deploy DPD Mounted Patrol on high-traffic weekend days and holidays; ramp up DPD general enforcement for the park area on all weekends and holidays. • Reinforce DPR education and enforcement efforts with volunteer efforts from neighbors and patrons, through independent social media and "courtesy patrols" in the park and surrounding neighborhoods.

"Ongoing monitoring and periodic consultation with park neighbors and patrons will be used to assess the effectiveness of the changes and make any necessary adjustments or implement additional measures," the department notes.

Continue to read Councilman Charlie Brown's original proposal to Denver Parks and Recreation. Here's the letter that Charlie Brown sent to the parks department; many of his suggestions have been incorporated in the new city plan for Washington Park.

Washington Park Beer Ban Proposal: Charlie Brown Letter

Charlie Brown's new newsletter not only includes information on the new plan for the park, but details aboutn his annual tomato plant giveaway. Learn more here.

From our archives: "Ballpark neighbors against homeless day-center proposal take their protest to Denver City Council."

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