"If you come down to the park and see the park, we're headed to it being the best shape it's been in in decades," says Scott Gilmore, deputy executive director of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation.
On November 3, Parks and Recreation will open the large rectangular area directly across the street from the City and County Building that runs east toward the main north-south walkway in Civic Center Park. Walkways adjacent to that rectangular area will be open to the public, as will the main north-south walkway and a horseshoe-shaped area just to the east of that walkway. And the city is opening the green area to the east of the McNichols Building.
But much of Civic Center Park, about two-thirds of the space, will remain closed, including the entire section next to Broadway, an area of the park that is commonly frequented by people experiencing homelessness.
"We need to keep people off of the turf areas on the east side of the park probably into spring...just for the fact that we've seeded them," Gilmore says. A spot just south of the large rectangular area will likely be the next space to open in what he is terming a "staggered opening" of the park.
The November 3 opening will be simultaneous with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment's lifting a public-health order that it had issued for the park in September. City officials cited rodent infestation, human waste, drug sales and violence — including a fatal shooting near the northeast corner of Civic Center Park on the evening of August 6 — as reasons for the order.
Citing concerns about public safety, the City of Denver also plans to upgrade the camera system in the park; it's hiring eight park rangers so that staffers are patrolling Civic Center Park twenty hours a day. The 11 p.m. curfew that covers all city parks will continue.
Gilmore stresses that the city won't "normalize" drug dealing and drug use in the park anymore. "We need to make sure that individuals that want to walk through the park with their kids, that they're not walking by somebody laying on the ground overdosing because they just injected heroin into their system," he says. "It's not okay. We cannot normalize drug use in Civic Center Park or any other park in the city."
The phased reopening of Civic Center Park will allow Christkindl Market, which identifies itself as "Colorado's only authentic German market," to operate in the park from November 19 through December 23.
"We're excited about the market being in the park because it was beautiful last year, and it will give the public a place to celebrate the holidays in Civic Center Park," Gilmore says.