Event limitations irk Old Town business leaders; confab set with City Parks chief
Vermijo, Bancroft parks likely to be disallowed for Firefall, Brule concerts

       Frustrated Old Colorado City business leaders plan to meet soon with Colorado Springs Parks Director Paul Butcher in an effort to find out what events they're still allowed to put on.
       Charlie Cagiao, an Old Colorado City pizza-shop owner who booked the Jefferson Starship in a concert on Colorado Avenue May 6, has been trying to bring in another classic-rock group (Firefall) this summer, but has been running into obstacles from the city.
       First, City Police did not grant him a special-events permit to hold the concert on the avenue June 24, and Butcher has determined that Vermijo Park - Cagiao's second choice for the event - is not big enough for the 1,000-plus crowd that might be expected, he explained in an interview with the Westside Pioneer this week. Butcher said that because Vermijo, located off 26th Street north of Highway 24, is a neighborhood park with relatively limited off-street parking, 200 to 250 is the most that should be allowed there at one time.
       In another letdown for merchant promotional plans, Butcher said this week that Cagiao's hoped-for July 4 concert in Bancroft Park with a Brule spin-off band would not be allowable, based on the promoter's expectation of about 500 people. Butcher said he has set a rough number of 100 at a time as the most that should be in Bancroft (located in the 2400 block of Colorado Avenue) for any event.
       This strict approach stems from his concerns about impacts on the residential neighborhoods near both parks. This spring he chaired several meetings at which he heard complaints from some residents about parking problems, trash and rude behavior resulting from special events, mainly Territory Days, which annually attracts well over 100,000 people to Old Town over Memorial Day weekend.
       “We have to look at the impact on the neighborhood,” he said. “That's got to be our starting point.” However, he agreed that the merchants' issues are not to be overlooked either. “It's a balancing act,” he said.
       “All I'm trying to do is promote Old Colorado City,” said Cagiao, who is vice president of the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group. “It's like they (the city) are promoting the idea of not promoting Old Colorado City.”
       Although saying she wanted to withhold judgment until she's talked to Butcher, OCCA President Carole Jourdan expressed concern about his park-number limits. “The implications of this are unbelievable,” she said. She and Cagiao both identified numerous Old Colorado City events that occur annually in Bancroft and draw more than 100 people, such as Territory Days, the Easter Egg Hunt, the Old Time Car Show, Scarecrow Days, the Coronado High School Homecoming Parade, Founders' Days, the St. Patrick's Day Parade and last week's Garden Fair.
       Asked about this point, Butcher suggested that most such events are not specifically the result of people renting the park. “It's the difference between someone having an event in the park and spilling over into the park,” he said. “We can't control that people walk through Bancroft Park because there's an event adjacent to it.” On the whole, he said, “I'm hard pressed to think of a neighborhood park as small as Bancroft that's trying to accommodate some of the largest events in the community.”
       There is a consistency question regarding the 100 number. The city is co-sponsoring a blues concert series (“Paint the Town Blue,” scheduled weekly in Bancroft Park from June 29 to Aug. 17). Amy Whitesell of the Pikes Peak Blues Community “guesstimated” that 500 people might attend each show. Asked about this number, Butcher said he wasn't sure if there would be that many, and in any case not all those people would probably be there at the same time.
       In another seemingly contradictory action, City Parks has agreed to let the new 26th Street Market at Vermijo Park on summer Saturdays advertise its event with banners and signs visible to traffic on Highway 24. Butcher conceded he did not know how many people this would attract to the park, but pledged to evaluate the results after the first market June 24 and make any changes that might seem appropriate.
       A Butcher suggestion, that Old Colorado City's larger events might go instead to America the Beautiful Park (just east of I-25), also did not sit well with Jourdan or Cagiao. “Just because the city built America the Beautiful Park doesn't mean everyone has to go there,” she said. “Old Colorado City has its own parks, and we should be able to fill it with local activities.”
       Jourdan added that she was not insensitive to the neighborhood issues, but is worried that an overly tight control on park usage will stifle the merchants, who need special events to draw attention to Old Colorado City in an increasingly competitive regional shopping market.
       Cagiao's thinking is that if “they (the city) won't let me do Bancroft or Vermijo, then they have to let me shut down the street.”
       He noted that the city reported minimal problems during the Starship concert, which closed off Colorado Avenue between 24th and 27th streets and drew close to 5,000 people. However, a few merchants complained that it hurt their business on a key summer Saturday, and the OCCA board, which had sponsored the Starship concert, voted against supporting Firefall in a similar street event. Lacking guidelines for resolving such conflicts, City Police Sgt. Bob Weber said at a recent neighborhood meeting that he tabled Cagiao's special-events permit request.
       That was when Cagiao said he would seek a City Parks permit to use Vermijo, figuring it should be OK because there would be no closed-off streets, Vermijo has some off-street parking, the concert would end by 9 p.m. and in any case there is some distance separation from the nearest residences off Cucharras Street.
       In a related action, City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher told City Manager Lorne Kramer at the council meeting June 12 that he wanted to see a public hearing process established for special-events permit requests so as “not to put all the burden on one police officer.”

Westside Pioneer article