Alcohol Ban Scrapped for Washington Park

April 30 2014, 12:05 PM

Rules posted at Denver's Washington Park.

Buzz-kill averted: Lauri Dannemiller, manager of the Denver Parks Department, was considering a six-month ban on all alcohol in Washington Park, but decided against the plan yesterday. 

Councilman Chris Nevitt—who represents the Wash Park area—concocted the idea as a way to keep his constituents happy after they complained about park visitors relieving themselves in the alleys and igniting altercations with property owners. The residents complained that efforts to curb partying, including paying Denver Police officers overtime to patrol the park, increasing the number of Porta-Potties, and giving park rangers the authority to write citations, wasn’t working. (In 2013, after rangers received enforcement power in July, 1,200 alcohol-related warnings and 93 citations were made in Wash Park.)

Nevitt looked at these numbers, along with his own park visits, and saw no difference in the makeup and conduct of the park’s visitors after the increased awareness. “We asked the question, how can we hit the reset button?” Nevitt said while championing the measure. “The alcohol ban is something we can do as a shock to the system.”

Currently, 3.2 beer is the only legal alcohol consumed in the park. (Yes, that’s right, your can of a hefty Colorado craft brew was already verboten.) But next to dogs, bikers, volleyball players, and sunbathers, the main issue at one of Denver’s most popular parks has never explicitly been beer. It has been people. It’s estimated that upwards of 10,000 people visited Wash Park on its busiest day last year. “Alcohol is a symptom of issue,” Sarah Spively, an activist against the ban, argues. “The issue is a lack of resources for the parks department and an increase in homegrown events because of the recession.”

With pushback from the community, the Parks Department will indeed beef up their efforts to stop out-of-control behavior. Two full-time Rangers will patrol conduct in the park and issue citations. Additionally, a permit system will be established for organized sports activities, and adjustments are underway in facility maintenance and parking.

The ban would have been an extreme measure and it looks like community pushback won this round. Personally, 3.2 beer on a hot day in the sun isn’t my idea of fun, but how else can you reasonably play beer league softball?