Demonstration for park safety after woman blocked from using Vermijo restroom
A small group of demonstraters lined the 26th Street sidewalk in front of Vermijo Park for about an hour and a half the morning of Aug. 4 to urge greater park and trail safety.
The event was organized through social media by 27-year Westside resident Tracey Jackman, who admitted that when she came to Vermijo she had no idea if anyone would join her.
As it turned out, roughly 20 local residents - though not all at the same time - showed up. Several of them carried signs about not feeling safe on Colorado Springs parks and trails.
One of them read, “Safety first- our parks, trails and restrooms should always be safe.”
The demonstrators waved and smiled at passing motorists, who responded with frequent supportive waves and horn-honks.
Jackman said she chose Vermijo because of a recent incident there, reported on KOAA Channel 5, about a woman who reported that she was denied access to the park's restroom by several people outside its entrance and then was struck by one of them. In the video, the woman said the people appeared to be camping there, and she was afraid to go back. A follow-up Channel 5 video showed several people with piles of items in front of the restroom.
The city was advised in advance of the Aug. 4 demonstration, and the restroom entrance, along with Vermijo Park as a whole, looked clean for the event.
The 4.6-acre park is bounded by Vermijo Street, 26th Street, Fountain Creek and an RV park.
Asked what she hoped to accomplish by the demonstration, Jackman said she wanted to “express my concern about people feeling safe in the parks." She added that she'd like to work with others who feel the same way and to meet with police to learn “what we can do to help.”
According to Jeff and Roxanna Murcer, who've lived across the street from Vermijo for three years, there is a constant issue with people camping in the park, leaving trash and causing problems, although some times are worse than others. As for the Midland Trail, which parallels Fountain Creek through Vermijo Park, Roxanna said she'd “love to use” it, but has become leery of the more remote parts because of harassment concerns.
Other people at the event, particularly women, expressed similar views.
Linda Schlarb, a member of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) advocacy group, emphasized that “this is not an anti-homeless protest. The Westside just wants ordinances like no-camping enforced in all the parks [including] more CSPD coverage after park hours to ensure they are not camping in any park.”
Westside Pioneer article