The park has become a public health hazard amid the worsening homelessness crisis
Civic Center Park was first established in the late 1800s, inspired by architecture at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. The original design combined Greco-Roman architecture with open space, creating a space for residents of a growing city to use for a variety of events and activities with a particular emphasis on art. Recently, however, the park’s general impression has been muddled by litter, rodents, human and animal waste, and drug paraphernalia.
The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment says that graffiti and hazardous waste have combined with the rest to create an unsafe environment, generating both sanitary and crime-related risks (9News). As a result, the park is now closed for cleaning and restoration in order to curb crime, protect public health, and help mitigate increasingly strenuous maintenance hours.
According to 9News, several of the buildings in the park will require significant repairs due to excessive graffiti and fire damage. The city is planning on a thorough revitalization and rehabilitation of the area.
Officials have expressed concerns that the park in its current state is no longer a safe place for Denver residents to go. Crime in the area has been increasing, including a fatal shooting on Aug. 6. Officials are hoping that restoring the park will decrease instances of violence and drug-related incidents. Over 400 crimes have been reported in or near Civic Center Park since the start of 2021, turning the area into a significant crime hub in comparison to the rest of Denver.
Parks and Recreation deputy executive director Scott Gilmore expressed a desire to “take back the park” in an interview with CBS4, in order to restore its status as a pleasant green space for residents to spend time in.
According to 9News, The City of Denver is also working to provide access to housing, mental health services, and other resources to those in the area who have been experiencing homelessness in an attempt to tackle some of the problems that have been plaguing Civic Center Park at their roots, though the specifics of those plans are unclear.
Cynthia Karvaski, a spokesperson for the Denver Parks Department, claims that the cleanup is not meant to “run off” people camping in Civic Center Park. Other parks and spaces close between 11 p.m. and 5 p.m., and tents are not permitted to be up during that time. According to Karvaski, closing the park to the homeless and the general public already fits into existing park policies.
For the duration of the closure, officials are encouraging individuals and organizations to choose other locations to gather outside. Those who have scheduled events in Civic Center Park in advance are being contacted to change their reservations to different locations.
Homelessness rates have tripled since 2014, with 6,104 unhoused people living in the area as of the start of 2020 (Fox31). With rates continuing to increase, time will tell whether these new measures help keep the park clean in the long run.