On a recent sunny Sunday, Hirshorn Park in Highland was alive with action. A few guys played basketball, kids clambered about the small playground. The baseball field hosted a game of wiffle ball.
Seven years ago, the baseball-field portion of Hirshorn Park — a small, much-needed slice of green in the Highland neighborhood — was shuttered. The cause: excessive dog poop.
For over thirty years, the ballfield was used as just that. But that changed as people began using it as a dog park, taking advantage of the field’s fence. The dogs, as they do, pooped all over the place. The owners, for the most part, just let it lie.
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Poop continued to pile up at the ball field, and as a result, “a lot of complaints came into the city from the permit holders, parents, neighbors,” says Cyndi Karvaski with Denver Parks and Recreation. So the gates were locked.
But as Highland's population — human and canine — started to grow, people slowly began questioning the park’s closure. Green-hungry Highlanders pointed out that “the neighborhood has this great park, and they don’t have access to it,” Karvaski says.
This month, in response to the community’s input, Parks and Rec finally reopened the field as a park, but only on a trial basis, from June 1 to July 31. However, as warned by a sign posted at the gates, this may be shortened, “depending on neighborhood care, responsible use and stewardship.”
Hopes are high that local dog owners will adopt a more responsible approach to their woofs’ waste and be able to “self-govern” the park. However, Parks and Rec will also have rangers in the area to catch any illegal poopers and “educate patrons about dog waste, etc.," Karvaski says.