Wash park will not ban alcohol but changes coming, city leaders say

People active in Washington Park in Denver.

People active in Washington Park in Denver.

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DENVER — The City of Denver announced a plan Tuesday to improve Washington Park including several changes. However, the controversial proposal to ban alcohol at the park was not among them.

Denver parks officials and police plan to issue more citations for misbehavior and organized activities including volleyball will now need a permit on weekends and holidays. Details about the permit system were not released, but were described as “drop-in.”

“This has been a joint effort to solve a variety of pressing issues,” Mayor Hancock said in a statement. “We are committed to delivering a better experience for all of Denver’s residents who enjoy Washington Park’s amenities as well as for our residents who live next door to the park.”

The changes are scheduled to start Memorial Day Weekend and include:

  • Establish a drop-in permit system for volleyball and other multi-person organized activities on weekends and holidays.
  • Increase the servicing of existing portable bathrooms and make plumbed bathrooms available for additional hours, including after-hours for Washington Park Recreation Center bathrooms.
  • Direct park visitors to the availability of free parking in the South High School parking lot.
  • Place permanent and moveable signage around the park to remind park users and visitors that only 3.2 percent beer, and no liquor or glass, is allowed in the park.
  • Increase right-of-way enforcement in the adjacent neighborhoods to ticket vehicles illegally parked in driveways or in handicapped spaces.
  • With signage and volunteers in place, Denver Park Rangers will view rule violations, including alcohol violations, with less tolerance and issue more citations for violations.
  • Increase Park Ranger patrol; deploy two full-time rangers in Washington Park on weekends.
  • Deploy DPD Mounted Patrol on high-traffic weekend days and holidays; ramp up DPD general enforcement for the park area on all weekends and holidays.
  • Reinforce DPR education and enforcement efforts with volunteer efforts from neighbors and patrons, through independent social media and “courtesy patrols” in the park and surrounding neighborhoods.

“It is clear that the activities and the sheer number of people gathering at Washington Park, especially on summer weekends, have increased dramatically over the past few years,” Executive Director Dannemiller said. “These new measures will, we hope, restore the quality experience that park-goers and residents should both expect.”

Denver Parks and Rec had considered an alcohol ban for the park after neighbors complained about trash and drunken behavior.

At the behest of his constituents, Denver City Councilman Chris Nevitt approached Parks & Rec about the idea of banning alcohol from Wash Park entirely.

In his letter to the Parks & Rec department requesting a ban, Nevitt said residents in the area have complained about a growing number of incidents involving litter, overflowing porta-potties, belligerent behavior of park goers in their neighborhoods, violent confrontations, public urination and illegally parked cars.

Opposition to the ban was especially strong among the parks 20-something users. The park regularly fills up on weekends with groups playing games and drinking.

Wash Park only permits the consumption of 3.2 beer in either plastic cups or cans. Glass and all alcohol of higher octane is banned, and if park goers are caught consuming such a beverage by one of the park’s rangers, a citation and fine may be issued.

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