Monday, October 16, 2006

Dennis Smith- Parks and Rec advisory board member

Civic Center Park has an image problem. Law abiding and tax paying men, women, and families avoid the park because of the abundance of hobos, tramps, drug dealers, runaways, and assorted odd balls. It is not for lack of amenities, fountains, reflecting ponds and 21st century interactive multimedia components that Denver's premier downtown park is viewed by many as undesirable and unsafe to visit. The unsavory fact is Civic Center Park is dominated by sketchy characters. Bad and illegal behavior has crowded out wholesome, responsible behavior. Fortunately for Denverites the reverse is true, good and responsible behavior drives out bad behavior. Taxpayers and visitors will return when they feel safe. Denver Police Department's "broken windows" policing strategy, where minor infractions are quickly investigated and their perpetrators questioned and arrested, should be implemented right outside the mayor's office window in Civic Center Park. New York's Mayor Giuliani cleaned up the notorious Times Square with a healthy, sustained dose of broken windows law enforcement. Denver can and should do the same with Civic Center Park. Fixing Civic Center Park does not require a multimillion dollar expenditure. However, physical change to the park seems inevitable.

Transforming Civic Center Park should reflect the will of the people of Denver. As a member of the Denver Parks & Recreation Department 's Advisory Board, I am delighted that there is a movement afoot by the nascent Civic Center Conservancy to enhance Civic Center Park. Unlike neighborhood parks (Sloans, City, Washington, for example) , Civic Center lacks the engaged stakeholders that live in close proximity to the park and utilize its amenities. Furthermore, Civic Center park is a grown-up's park, lacking swing sets, tennis courts, ball fields, or the other attributes that bring patrons of all ages to a park. Thus the participation of the Civic Center Conservancy in funding improvements to the park, promoting its greater use, and soliciting ideas for its renovation is welcome . However, I would ask that the Conservancy pay special attention to the Civic Center master plan, completed in 2005. The master plan reflects the wishes of the citizens of Denver. It reflects their good taste, their sense of tradition, and their interest in preserving civic history. The plan included numerous surveys and public hearings, and took months to complete. It was widely publicized process, requested citizen input, and was entirely transparent.

Finally, I suggest that the Civic Center Conservancy look not to Chicago and its $500 million (no kidding) Millennium Park for inspiration for the changes to Civic Center. Rather, continue east to NYC's Bryant Park. What was once a haven for drug dealers, drug purchasers, sleepy transients, and assorted lawbreakers is now a dynamic downtown park that is beautiful, safe, and frequented by all. Bryant Park's website claims "A seven-year push combined supplementary park maintenance, temporary kiosks, and public events ranging from historical park tours to concerts, which reduced crime by 92 percent and doubled the number of annual park visitors." Denver deserves no less.

Dennis Smith
Denver South High School
member Denver Parks Department's Advisory Board District #7

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