City Parks hosts meeting, mulls solutions to impacts from Old Town special events

       Answers remain elusive on how to alleviate special-events downsides for Old Colorado City's nearby residents, but at least now a city department is taking on the challenge.
       After a meeting with residents and Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group representatives April 25, Colorado Springs Parks Director Paul Butcher said he talked to City Manager Lorne Kramer, who agreed to let Parks head up the study effort - even though city park use is not the actual issue.
       “I told the city manager I'd take the lead role and he said fine,” Butcher said. “At this point, we want to stay with it. Certainly what we decide will affect other park events in the city.”
       The April 25 meeting, set up by the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), drew about 30 people, most of whom complained about problems in their neighborhoods stemming from special events - particularly the OCCA's annual three-day Territory Days, which draws close to 150,000 people in good weather. The main issues people raised at the meeting related to illegal parking, quantities of trash and unruly drunks.
       The city and the OCCA approached the meeting as an opportunity to find ways to help the neighborhood during special events. In response to the problems - first brought up at an Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) meeting last fall - OCCA Executive Director Nancy Stovall said the merchant group plans to spend an additional $3,000 to $5,000 this year for remedial actions. These include a free shuttle for attendees parking in the Coronado High parking lot, extra police to provide parking enforcement and a free Territory Days booth to let OWN members talk to the community about the issues. Continuing this year will be a contracted daily trash cleanup that takes in the Colorado Avenue part of the event (27th to 23rd streets) as well as four blocks around it, according to Stovall and Lynda Dunne, who contracts to organize the event for OCCA. Dunne's belief is that the trash cleanup leaves the area cleaner than it was before.
       But for many of the neighbors at the meeting, such measures are not enough. Several indicated a belief that parking violations will continue, trash will be ignored and drunks will cause problems. “It's not fair,” said resident Nancy Miceli. “We've put up with this (Territory Days) for 30 years. We didn't ask for it and we don't want it.”
       Kristine Van Wert, an OWN board member, suggested some people might file lawsuits over the problems (such as a drunk tripping on a sidewalk crack) and urged moving the event to Penrose Stadium and/or revising it to be more historically “territorial.” She also indicated that homeowners have more clout since their property values have gone up in recent years, meaning they no longer need to be dependent on what the business district wants.
       Dunne said the event is annually the main fund-raiser for OCCA, allowing the group to advertise, beautify the shopping district, bring Santa to Bancroft cabin and provide the annual Easter Egg Hunt and Halloween Safe Treats, which are free events geared to the local neighborhood. She also noted that the Old Colorado City shopping district - until World War I the downtown of the municipality of Colorado City - was there long before the neighborhood's current homeowners, and its success helps boost residential property values. Responding to Van Wert's event-change ideas, Dunne said that moving Territory Days or narrowing its focus would limit vendors and threaten its profitability.
       In all, Butcher said afterward that he had filled seven flip charts with comments during the meeting. Out of these, he expects there are “half a dozen ideas or so I'm going to look at.”
       One of these is fire safety. Although Dunne and Police Sgt. Robert Weber, who oversees special events for the Police Department, affirmed a statement from the City Fire Department that fire trucks could get down narrow residential streets - even with parking on both sides during Territory Days - meeting attendees questioned whether that was true. So Butcher said he plans to set up another meeting, within about two weeks, to which he will invite a Fire Department representative to answer this and any other health/safety concerns.
       “I got a general sense that they wanted the Fire Department to tell them face to face,” Butcher said. Asked what he would do if the neighbors remained unconvinced even after such a meeting, he said, “If they want a 100 percent guarantee, it's not going to happen.”
       Other ideas include residential parking permits, painting illegal parking zones, positioning tow trucks nearby, asking the Humane Society to drop by during the event (neighbors said dogs have been left all day in parked cars), putting trash receptacles at street corners, and erecting signs that might lead to respectful behavior by event attendees.
       Of these, Butcher said the only action that might mean increased costs for OCCA would be the additional trash receptacles, if that option is selected.
       City Parks originally got involved a few months ago because of neighborhood questions about the Farmers' Market on 24th Street next to Bancroft Park on summer Saturdays. Frank Schmidt, the market manager, was at the April 25 meeting, but his event, smaller in scope, received little criticism compared to Territory Days'.

Westside Pioneer article