DENVER (KDVR) — Denver city leaders are expected to announce details in the first week of November about a plan to reopen Civic Center Park in phases sometime within the month.
The park, which sits between the Colorado Capitol Denver City and County building, was closed and the homeless population was cleared out Sept. 15 after the city declared the park a health hazard.
“We were picking up syringes on a regular basis. That was one of the main reasons for the health shutdown,” Denver Park Ranger Jonathan Hill said.
On the day the park was closed, Hill told FOX31 at least 100 used drug needles were found.
A spokeswoman for Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department told the Problem Solvers the city intends to hire eight more park rangers and 11 additional maintenance personnel, some of whom will work overnight to monitor downtown parks.
In addition, the city is upgrading its HALO police cameras to keep an eye on criminal activity.
Fentanyl overdoses on the rise
The rise of fentanyl has led to a rise in fatal overdose deaths in Denver. The city recorded 225 fatal drug overdoes in 2019 and 370 in 2020.
Last year, 69 of the 160 homeless people who passed away died from a drug overdose, making overdoses the leading cause of death in Denver’s homeless community last year.
Hills said he carries Narcan spray with him on every patrol in case he comes across someone experiencing a drug overdose.
“Personally, where I’ve actually found, recognized, administered Narcan and saved (a life), I’m upwards of 15 now,” Hill said.
Samantha Hudson said she understood why the city took drastic action and closed the park.
“The overdoses were just ridiculous,” Hudson said.
The 33-year old described herself as a recovering meth addict who spent 3-4 months in Civic Center Park, where she once overdosed on a Xanax bar laced with heroin.
“Between the drugs, the violence, the dirty syringes, I wouldn’t bring my kids to this park,” Hudson said.
Hudson recently stopped by the park to tell Hill she had recently found permanent housing in Englewood thanks to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
“I knew if I stayed here in Denver, I couldn’t get straight. I could never get straight and clean. I’d never have a chance of getting my children back from the state of Colorado,” Hudson said.
Civic Center Park curfew will be enforced
Cyndi Karvaski, a spokesperson for Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department, said park cleanup continues.
“We continue to clean and remediate the park grounds and work continues to restore, rehabilitate and revitalize areas of the park that were damaged, including removing graffiti from the historic stone,” Karvaski said. “We anticipate opening limited sections of the park as abatement and clean-up measures have been completed.”
Karvaski told FOX31 camping will not be allowed in the park when it reopens. The city has a park curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and Karvaski said it will be strictly enforced when the park reopens.