Council to limit Bancroft crafters

       Commercial craft groups can reserve Bancroft Park just one Saturday a month next summer, based on a new policy that was roughed out at the Colorado Springs City Council informal meeting Sept. 26.
       The consensus decision was led by City Council member Jerry Heimlicher, whose District 3 includes Old Colorado City, with Mayor Lionel Rivera and Council member Tom Gallagher also speaking in favor.
       The policy will evidently cause a change from this summer, when a Colorado Springs craft-supporting corporation named JEI has rented the park every Saturday except for the four times that the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group or the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) reserved it.
       A representative of JEI could not be reached for comment at press deadline.
       In his explanatory comments, Heimlicher championed the merchants, who have told him their sales have dropped when the crafters have the park, as well as Westside residents, who, he said, have been “basically locked out” of their own park.
       His comments at the meeting mirrored those in a column he wrote in the Sept. 22 Westside Pioneer. He believes it is wrong that the money made by the craft group from sub-leasing booth spaces exceeds what it pays the city to rent the park; also, that the crafters often unfairly compete with merchants by selling the same mass-produced items - with far fewer overhead costs.
       City Parks Director Paul Butcher told council that in recent years City Parks resolved a similar situation at Acacia Park downtown by moving the crafters to Memorial Park. He noted that Acacia and Bancroft are unique by being the only two Colorado Springs parks located so close to major commercial areas.
       Butcher said he plans to leave Bancroft unreserved one Saturday a month, with a second Saturday set aside for Old Colorado City promotional events, a third for unnamed “cultural events” and a fourth for the crafters.
       Heimlicher said he plans to “fine tune” the policy with Butcher - for instance, there may be some months with five weeks or in which OCCA and OCCHS both want to sponsor an event - but the councilman expressed confidence those issues can be managed. The main point, he said, is that “the crafters are held to once a month.” He also said he will ask Butcher to set up a meeting to explain the new policy to all interested groups before Nov. 1.
       That date is significant because it is traditionally when City Parks starts accepting park reservations for the coming year, on a first-come, first-served basis. In recent years, JEI has come in that day with a request for as many summer Saturdays as possible (with allowance for traditional Westside events, such as the merchants' Territory Days or the OCCHS' Founders' Day). The crafter dates generally match up with the schedule of the Farmers' Market, which runs every Saturday from June to October on 24th Street next to the park; the idea, JEI representatives have said, is to capitalize on the market's popularity.
       OCCA leaders have argued that November is too early for its members to determine all the events they might want to set up for the next year. For example, it wasn't until last January that an Old Colorado City tavern decided it wanted to sponsor a benefit concert in the park this summer. But when OCCA asked the crafters to give up one of its November-reserved summer Saturdays, the craft group said no.
       Two years ago, responding to OCCA complaints, the city limited the JEI to every other Saturday. However, last November, lacking any policy to support continuing that strategy, the city put on no such limitation.
       The new policy “is going to benefit OCCA,” Nancy Stovall, the group's president, commented afterward. “I knew Jerry was on top of this, and that he said he would work on it, so I'm really glad he was able to follow through.”
       Another group that will appreciate the change is the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), Council member Tom Gallagher said at the Sept. 26 meeting. A former OWN president himself, he pointed out that the new policy means OWN can hold its annual community picnic on a Saturday now (instead of Sunday).

Westside Pioneer article