Heimlicher pledges to lead any T-days fixes

       Believing that Territory Days is a key part of the Westside, City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher proposed at a neighborhood meeting June 6 to “take a leading role” in problem-solving for the annual street festival in the future. “I pledge to you I will do all I can to make this right,” he said.
       His comments followed about 1 ½ hours of discussion - some pro, some con- regarding the neighborhood impacts of the 30th annual Territory Days that took place over Memorial Day weekend in Old Colorado City.
       “Old Colorado City was in terrible condition 30 years ago,” Heimlicher said. “Territory Days was part of its recovery.”
       Stating that most residents wanting an end to the three-day event have moved into the area since its inception, he charged that their opposition indicated a “NIMBY” (not in my backyard) attitude. “Throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn't the answer,” he said.
       Nearly 60 people attended the meeting, hosted by City Parks and the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), at the Gold Hill Police Substation. Called a “debriefing,” the meeting followed pre-event meetings which had led to beefed-up parking enforcement, parking-advisory signs that City Parks gave to residents, a free shuttle service (paid for by Old Colorado City merchants) from Coronado High School and enhanced trash pickup this year.
       With dry weather all three days, the festival this year was attended by 130,000 to 150,000 people, according to an estimate by event organizer Lynda Dunne. This would have bested the previous record of 140,000 (a police estimate from a previous year). But Territory Days founder Dave Hughes and City Police Sgt. Robert Weber suggested the crowd was not much over 100,000, although Weber, in his first year with the event, said he is “not good with estimates.”
       Colorado Avenue was closed off for Territory Days between 23rd and 27th streets.
       The biggest neighborhood issues involved parking and trash. Weber, who heads up special events for City Police, reported that officers issued 489 parking tickets in and around Territory Days during the event.
       The shuttle buses, intended to ease the neighborhood parking crunch, moved 10,000 people in their first year as a free service. This was twice as many as in past years, according to Dunne.
       But this effort still fell short, according to Rockie Chisesi, one of the most vocal of those in opposition. Of the 23 parking-related citizen calls that police received during the event, she estimated 10 were from her. Although police issued tickets to some of those she had identified, others were not ticketed, she alleged. She passed around more than 20 photos her family had taken of parking violations.
       She was also unhappy with trash cleanup (“There is still trash in my yard,” she said, providing additional pictures). Disputing her charges that the trash pickup was ineffective was Dee Allen, head of Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful. Contracted by the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group, Allen's contingent included 45 supervised volunteers working the event and a four-block area around it with trash bags. Added this year (by City Parks) were cardboard trash boxes at residential street corners, which seemed to have had mixed results. The wind blew some of them over and, while some Territory Days trash found their way into some of the boxes, “we found many neighbors had taken them and filled them with personal trash,” Allen said.
       The day after the event, she said she went out and personally picked up trash in a 10-block area near Old Colorado City, but found only enough to fill half a bag.
       Among the suggestions from residents were to have better publicity in the future for the shuttle buses from Coronado High School - including a map for how to get there; to have better advertising in general; to add more historic activities to the festival; to take a harder look at safety issues on traffic-clogged side streets during the event; and to paint the curbs yellow beforehand to clearly show where parking is allowed.
       Don Schlarb, who owns a propane business in the 2700 block of Colorado Avenue, charged that Territory Days as a whole hurts his business and is a danger because of so many people near a large propane tank. “Everybody in this room has a list of annoyances with Territory Days,” he said. “At what point does the Westside neighborhood break?” He proposed moving Territory Days to another location, such as the Norris-Penrose Event Center.
       Hughes and a few others took umbrage to this idea, noting that the festival celebrates Old Colorado City's heritage and when people come to Territory Days they see that the historic shopping district is unique and want to come back. “If you moved Territory Days elsewhere, it would die completely,” Hughes said. “It's not just a fair.”
       One idea brought comedy relief to the proceedings. Gene Orner, discussing the flimsy nature of the parking signs that City Parks had given the residents, suggested that in the future such signs be made of the same material as “the signs politicians use. They're out there forever.”
       Heimlicher mentioned specific steps he would take. One was to ask Public Works about painting the curbs next spring. “The city should do that,” he said. He also said he would “do what I can as a City Council member” to get more volunteer help for trash pickup, and suggested that OWN work with City Parks on future Territory Days issues.
       Jim Fenimore, vice president of OWN, responded that “we “could put together a task force for special events.” He added his own thought that efforts should be made to get the word out to the broader area of Colorado Springs that when they come to Territory Days they should “treat this as if it were their own neighborhood.”

Westside Pioneer article