Denver, Colo. (KDVR) – Park officials showed off some changes at Civic Center Park Saturday following the complete shutdown of the park last year.
Civic Center Park that sits across the street from the capital remained closed for months last year due to what the Colorado Department of Public Health called outstanding public health issues. The park had been riddled with trash, needles, graffiti, leftover food, feces and a rat infestation.
We met with Denver Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Scott Gilmore to look at the changes that have been made and to see how they’re preventing this type of activity going forward.
“If you walk around this park today it is not the same park that it was a year ago at this time,” Gilmore said
With the high level of drug and crime activity, the department took a step back and realized something needed to be done and began with an overall shutdown.
“Last year this park had become a place where it was just, I had to take a lot of that responsibly as the head of the parks department and I was embarrassed, I was embarrassed for myself, for my department and for the city,” Gilmore said.
Since the shutdown, they’ve given the park a deep clean and had a robust camera system installed consisting of approximately 30 cameras. Additionally, they’ve added eight rangers and 11 maintenance workers, in order to keep a close eye on the activity in the area.
They also kept some of the fencing in place so they can manage access to the park and control the activities that happen in the park.
The department has also implemented a new rule that prohibits people from sitting on the eastern side of the park’s grassy area. They’ve reopened the restrooms, but with added security.
Before shutting down the park last year, the department made sure to inform the homeless that were living there.
“We got out here with social workers and the park rangers and let everyone know the park was going to close,” Gilmore explained, “and if they wanted to go to a shelter or somewhere we provided them with that information.”
Now, they say it’s a clean and safe place to enjoy Denver. Something parkgoers like Sharon Zhitnik agree with.
“That’s pretty crazy to me that that happened because it’s so clean now. Even though it’s a little cloudy today it’s still really nice to enjoy the fresh air and the greenery and just have a place that you can escape to in the middle of the city,” Zhitnik stated.
There have been issues at other parks, but those are being addressed. Governor’s Park playground was shut down due to the discovery of 40 hypodermic needles. Additionally, an employee at Quality Hill Park pricked their finger with a needle while cleaning up. That park was closed down as well and has since been converted to a dog park.