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Anyone caught dealing, using drugs to be suspended from Denver parks

DENVER -- After an increase in drug use along the Cherry Creek trail and in city parks, Denver Parks and Recreation issued a new directive to ban people caught using and dealing drugs.

Bicyclists and runners along the Cherry Creek bike path said it has become so common, it is no longer shocking for them to see. They said the trail has become a known hot spot for heroin use, with used needles littering the ground.

More than 3,500 needles have been collected by parks officials this year, with 2,400 of them collected since April.

That number includes those that have been deposited into a disposal box located on the trail near Speer Boulevard and Colfax Avenue, said Cynthia Karvaski, a spokeswoman for Denver Parks and Recreation.

“Denver, as well as other places across the country, are noticing a huge epidemic of the increase in heroin use,” Karvaski said. “And we’re seeing it in our Denver parks as well as the Cherry Creek greenway.”

Denver Parks and Recreation recently implemented new “no stopping or standing” rules for the path.

And now, Denver Parks and Recreation has issued a temporary directive, allowing police to give 90-day park suspensions, effectively banning anyone caught buying, selling, using or possessing illegal drugs for three months.

Violators of that suspension could face up to a year in jail and $999 in fines.

RELATED: Denver Parks and Recreation drug-related suspensions directive

It’s one piece of the puzzle, Karvaski said, as the city tackles growing concerns over drug use and homelessness from the 16th Street Mall to makeshift camps set up in city parks.

The camps prompted the city to enforce the 11 p.m. park curfew ordinance, which then prompted a lawsuit filed on behalf of homeless people who were impacted by the so-called sweeps.

Karvaski said one goal of the new directive was to target drug dealers and offer assistance to those addicted.

Still, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado expressed concern over the legality of issuing suspensions, in a statement posted to its Facebook page.

Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU of Colorado, also said he believed activities could be banned from parks, but people could not.

“I don’t think there is any authority to ban people from the park,” Silverstein said.

Denver Parks and Recreation officials said anyone can appeal their suspension. The new directive takes effect Thursday. Police will start enforcing it on Friday.