Alcohol at Territory Days may get city look

       City officials listened to Territory Days opponents Aug. 16, although there is no reason to think the regionally popular three-day festival in Old Colorado City won't be back for Memorial Day weekend next year.
       The “debrief” meeting had been called by City Council member Jerry Heimlicher, emphasizing that he wanted ideas to improve Territory Days, not proposals to eliminate it.
       He could not be present at the meeting because of a family matter. However, he said beforehand he had heard no complaints after this year's festival and called the meeting to make sure everyone had a chance to be heard.
       In his absence, the meeting, attended by about 30 people, was run by City Parks Maintenance Director Kurt Schroeder. “Some people are going to go to their graves and say this shouldn't happen,” he commented at the end. “We like to hear people's concerns, but I think we have the gist of it.”
       No additional meetings are planned, although a follow-up report that documents meeting issues will be prepared and submitted to City Council, according to Aimee Cox of City Parks. She said the only “new issue” that came out of the meeting was whether the two Territory Days drinking areas (the Margarita Cantina and the Beer Garden) are a problem. The OCCA sets up the areas as a convenience to adult attendees and as a revenue enhancer. Police did have to break up a fight at the Beer Garden this year, and Lynda Dunne, who runs the event for the OCCA, reported having to make another customer remove his “gang colors” (at the request of police).
       Overall, based on an unofficial tally, about half those present favored Territory Days, while others were there to state their opposition.
       Other complaints, similar to those heard at a debrief meeting after the 2006 event, touched on parking violations, trash and a general concern that Territory Days causes too much of a burden for the residential area around Old Colorado City.
       Some critics also reiterated charges that the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group has inflated the festival's size to make money.
       The police liason, Sgt. Bob Weber, reported an increase in parking tickets from 589 last year to 646 this year. Dee Cunningham of Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful (KCSB) described improvements in trash pickup, and Dunne noted that the shuttle - intended to cut down parking impacts - has been free the past two years and there may be a second drop-off location next year.
       In the discussion on alcohol, Weber said that there are several other drinking establishments in Old Colorado City and people would just go to them if the Territory Days venues were shut down. But this did not convince event opponent Rocky Chisesi, who said she believes there has been more drunken behavior at Territory Days since OCCA started its alcohol areas in recent years.
       “If it's a family event, why is there alcohol?” she asked.
       “Adults are part of families,” responded Don Wick of the OCCA board.
       Tim Tafoya, owner of Old Colorado City Surplus, who otherwise supports Territory Days, also questioned the event-sponsored drinking areas, saying he thought alcohol should be confined to the existing establishments.
       OCCA hires off-duty police officers to monitor the condition of its drinking clientele. “I'd take that over a waiter or a bouncer,” Weber commented.
       During the parking discussion, Weber had an exchange with a resident who complained that during Territory Days he had gotten a ticket for parking illegally in front of his own house. After being told the man is disabled, Weber told him that he could apply to the city for a disabled space in front of his house.
       To free up parking on adjacent residential streets - which are routinely filled with festival-goers' cars - some critics called for a kind of permit system that would only allow residents to park there. However, Cox said there is no ordinance for that, and Weber reiterated that the streets are public.
       Cox also noted that a City Parks inquiry to residents last year about painting the curbs (to specify legal parking locations) had met with apathy. The general neighborhood concern appears to be that painting curbs will actually reduce the number of spaces. Without paint, a kind of “don't ask, don't tell” parking philosophy exists the other 362 days of the year, she said.
       There was some interest in temporary signs explaining basic parking laws, but residents asked that they be more sturdy than the cardboard ones Parks provided last year, which reportedly blew away or came apart easily.
       Some of the Territory Days opponents complained that despite the KCSB trash effort, some still had trash on their properties. Chisesi noted, for example, that two flyers placed on the window of her car had not been taken off. Cunningham said the law does not allow KCSB to remove flyers from cars. She also noted that some residents have been known to put out their own personal trash for KCSB to pick up.
       Territory Days supporters praised the KCSB efforts and said they don't mind picking up event debris from their own properties. One of these was Dave Hughes, a long-time Westside leader who helped start the event. Tim Tafoya, owner of Old Colorado City Surplus, said he had “a fourth the amount of trash I've had in the past.”
       Tafoya also invited the OCCA to relocate the shuttle bus drop-off to 28th Street on the north side of Colorado Avenue, near his business. The numbers of people coming and going when the stop was at 28th south of Colorado had helped his trade in past years, he said - however, the drop-off was moved to 23rd and Colorado Avenue this year at the request of Territory Days opponents Don and Linda Schlarb of Old Town Propane, who for the past year or so have been petitioning against large events in Old Colorado City.
       Citizen opinions, expressed at the meeting, ranged from Kristine Van Wert's concern that the event is “a place for terrorists to hit” to Gene Orner's comment that Territory Days “is wonderful. I don't care if the parking is full… I get tired of people (complaining) all the time.”
       Orner got broad laughter with his response to criticisms that the items sold at Territory Days are not very high quality. An American Indian and a long-time Westside resident, he said he has friends renting booths at the event, “and they make things that aren't from the Hong Kong tribe.”
       Dunne noted that the historical attractions at Territory Days have increased, but renting booth space to street vendors is key to covering the costs of an “expensive event.” Also, she pointed out that the city benefits from the sales taxes the event pays. The event is OCCA's main revenue producer every year, with proceeds chiefly being used for marketing the shopping district.
       However, she said OCCA has no intention of enlarging the festival in the future. “Our goal is to make it better, not bigger,” she said.

Westside Pioneer article