T-Days: No public meeting this year; question about special motorcycle parking

       After a year of holding public meetings in advance of every major public gathering in the city, the city's Special Events Committee has given up that practice.
       “It was pretty much a waste of our time,” said Lonnie Spanswick, a police sergeant who oversees special events for the city. “We were only getting event organizers.”
       He gave this response recently when asked if a Territory Days public meeting was upcoming because one had been held in early February last year.
       The committee's new format is to sit down with an event organizer 60 days before the event “to make sure we're all on the same page and everything is covered,” Spanswick said. Committee members are employees from the City Attorney's Office, Fire Department, Fire Marshal's Office, Traffic Engineering and Police Department.
       Territory Days, which will be May 29-31 this year, is an annual festival over Memorial Day weekend, attended by well over 100,000 people, in which Colorado Avenue is closed off between 23rd and 27th streets. The overseeing entity is the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) commercial group, which typically earns up to $80,000 from the event from sponsorships, liquor sales and vendors.
       For that event, Spanswick has identified a new issue this year - insufficient handicapped parking. The city lot at 26th and Cucharras streets has 30 available spaces, but these filled up at last year's Territory Days. “I've told them handicapped parking needs to be addressed,” Spanswick said.
       Another parking element has surfaced in the past month. Jim Wear, the new Territory Days organizer, said he publicized the event at a recent Denver motorcycle show, displaying a flyer that stated there would be special parking for motorcycles this year. Asked for details, Wear deferred to three board members of the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) commercial group, The three he deferred to were President Charles Irwin, Vice President Mazie Baalman and board member Jake Topakas. Of these, over a two-week span, only Topakas responded, saying, “Why are we even discussing motorcycle parking? We have never provided parking for motorcycles or any attendees for that matter, unless I am mistaken. I don't think there should be any motorcycle parking at all. That's my opinion, but hey we can discuss it later.”
       Spanswick said he would talk to the OCCA about that point - especially in view of the need for added handicapped parking - but reiterated a past statement that he has a high regard for Wear as an event organizer. “He is probably one of the best in the region at organizing,” Spanswick said. “There are just no concerns when he's in charge. If you say, 'This is what we need,' he says, 'We'll do it.'”
       Asked if he foresaw any issue that could lead the Special Events Committee to hold a public meeting before this year's Territory Days, Spanswick said no. “Most of these events like Territory Days that have been here forever, we know what the issues are,” he said.
       At the same time, he said he understands that “the last thing people would want is for that to turn into a motorcycle event.”
       The idea of public meetings by the Special Events Committee had resulted from advocacy by former City Councilmember Jerry Heimlicher, who wanted to be sure residents' issues about Territory Days weren't overlooked. City-facilitated neighborhood meetings on the event's issues were held in 2006 and 2007, and a 2007 report by City Parks summarized the concerns as being mainly about traffic, parking, trash, noise, liability and alcohol use. But Heimlicher resigned last September, and no other councilmember has since taken up that crusade.
       Also, there have been no serious problems at Territory Days, according to Spanswick. Illegally parked cars are the most prevalent sort of crime, and “we take care of that pretty aggressively,” he said. It's not unusual for police to write 500 citations or more over the three days of the festival.

Westside Pioneer article