Washington Park alcohol ban pushed to address "belligerent drunken behavior"

Washington Park is without question one of Denver's favorite parks. But is this status endangered by the bad behavior associated with alcohol?

That's among the assertions made in a letter by Denver City Councilman Chris Nevitt, who's calling for a ban on alcohol in the park.

Continue for more information, including some push-back from a prominent Wash Park organization.

Nevitt's letter is addressed to Lauri Dannemiller, executive director of Denver Parks & Recreation. He begins by arguing that Washington Park is "perhaps the most popular park in the Denver parks system...a wonderful amenity to live near." However, he sees flaws in this urban gem.

The complete document is below. But here's a key excerpt:
Over the last several years, however, 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.
According to Nevitt, "All these issues share a common theme: they are all either directly caused or badly exacerbated by alcohol."

As Nevitt acknowledges, neither Washington Park nor other parks in the Denver system are liquor free-for-alls. Indeed, only 3.2 percent or lower alcohol is allowed. But he maintains that "this mild prohibition" is too weak to address the growing problems at Washington Park.

Nevitt's office is hosting a meeting about the topic at 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, at the Denver Baha'i Center, located near the intersection of Bayaud and Grant, and members of the Washington Park Tennis Club are expected to be in attendance. In a note to members, WPTC president Gordon Rulon writes:
Being responsible adults, I believe the below proposal is extending Denver Parks and Recreations' authority beyond what makes common sense. If there have been problems in the past with abuse, then address the offenders, not park users as a group.

The park is a wonderful place to enjoy the freedoms of nature, activities, etc. and should remain as such.

Here's Nevitt's letter.

Chris Nevitt Letter About Banning Alcohol in Washington Park

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Best of Denver archive: "Photos: Ten best parks for doing just about anything in Denver and beyond."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts