District 3 Report: Returning Bancroft Park to the citizens

By City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher

       Today, any group can reserve a city park for special events on a first-come, first-served sign-up basis by appearing at City Parks headquarters in early November. These reservations are for the following year. Bancroft Park, in the heart of Old Colorado City, is one of the parks subject to this reservation process, and I don't think it should be.
       In recent years, Bancroft Park has been reserved for every available summer Saturday by a group that sponsors craft shows. The sponsor pays the city the reservation fee and then rents display space for people to sell their "crafts" in the park. There are at least two problems with this process. First, the sponsor collects more in rent from the participants than it pays the city for the reservation. I believe it is wrong to prevent taxpayers from enjoying city-owned park property to provide a profit opportunity for folks who do not all live in Colorado Springs.
       The second problem I see is that it is wrong to allow folks to rent space to sell products in direct competition with the merchants along Colorado Avenue. In the beginning, the craft booths sold true handmade crafts. However, in recent years, some of the merchandise has become mass-produced and is in some cases exactly the same merchandise sold in the stores of the permanent Old Colorado City merchants. I do not believe it is fair to allow weekend merchants who only pay a space fee to compete with permanent merchants who provide employment opportunities, collect sales taxes and pay property taxes for the stores they own or rent.
       Two years ago I received a petition from every merchant in Old Colorado City protesting this practice and asking for me to take action to stop it. I brought it up at council and worked with the Parks Department to solve the problem. In November of 2003, the craft people were allowed to reserve Bancroft Park every other Saturday for summer 2004. In November 2004 the Parks Department, not receiving any pressure from council, returned to the old policy of allowing Bancroft to be reserved every week for summer 2005. I understand that the Parks Department will start taking reservations Nov. 1 for the 2006 season and will again allow the craft people to reserve every available weekend.
       I will be presenting this matter to City Council Monday, Sept. 26, and I will ask for support to direct the Parks Department to allow Bancroft Park to be returned to the citizens with even fewer days dedicated to the craft-sales people.

Councilman Heimlicher represents District 3, which includes much of the Westside.