No blood yet in battle for Bancroft
City can’t explain why OCCHS was charged more than crafters in ‘04

       Last summer, the for-profit JEI Promotions Company paid $75 to Colorado Springs Parks each Saturday that it held a craft fair in Bancroft Park.
       The one weekend that the non-profit Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) rented the park - for the annual Founders Day, a celebration of Old Town traditions which includes some crafters - City Parks charged the group $200 a day.
       This discrepancy emerged from a Nov. 1 meeting of City Parks with the three groups - the third is the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) - that have a financial stake in what happens with Bancroft Park on summer weekends.
       Mike McCauley, principal analyst for City Parks, told the Westside Pioneer he had no explanation why OCCHS was charged more. The department's unofficial policy for park rentals includes categories for “major” and “minor” events. He said that somehow JEI fell into the minor category and OCCHS into the major; he did not know the exact circumstances.
       To avoid major-minor conflicts next year, City Parks will automatically identify each renting group as minor. “This should help all groups out with access,” McCauley said. He reiterated the department's position of trying to be fair, so that no group wanting to use the park feels discriminated against.
       Dave Hughes of OCCHS sees it differently. He described Parks' new stance as a “backaway” from the real issue of how Bancroft should be used. “I fundamentally object to renting the park to (just) anybody,” said Hughes, who led the business revitalization of Old Colorado City 25 years ago. “The original purpose of the revitalization was to use the park for public activities and entertainment, not as a city cash cow that hurts local businesses.”
       Nancy Stovall, OCCA president, agrees that Old Town businesses are adversely affected by the crafters. She said some merchants have kept track of their earnings and have noticed distinct drop-offs on the days JEI has its craft fairs. A main concern is that some JEI crafters sell the same products as Old Colorado City merchants, but at lower prices. Stovall said this isn't fair competition, because the merchants, unlike crafters, must factor in such costs as renting building space, having employees and paying insurance.
       JEI representatives offer no apologies about using the park to make money, although stressing that they don't make much and their primary purpose is supporting crafters. The park belongs to the public, and to deny them access would be a denial of their rights, JEI owner Jackson Ivey has said. JEI has said it is willing to work with the city, OCCA and OCCHS to find mutually agreeable dates for next year.
       City Parks scheduled the meeting Nov. 1 because that was the day that groups interested in renting city parks could sign up for events for 2005. JEI was ready to request as many summer Saturdays as possible. OCCHS and OCCA had a few dates, but argued that it's not easy for volunteer civic groups like themselves to always plan that far ahead.
       “It doesn't leave the opportunity for anything spontaneous to happen,” Stovall said. “Another thing the city needs to be aware of is that there has to be some dates for the public to use the park” for smaller events such as reunions or picnics.
       In response to these concerns, McCauley scheduled another meeting of the groups for Jan. 12. “We'll talk about compromise,” he said. “I think everyone is going to cooperate. They all share one common goal, that they value the park as a Westside resource.”
       In OCCHS' case, Founders' Day has been one of its annual fund raisers, primarily to help the group maintain its History Center (which is across the street from Bancroft). However, in part because of the higher fees, last summer's two-day event did little more than break even, according to Hughes, the group's treasurer.
       Sometime in the coming weeks, McCauley said there would be “internal discussions” at City Parks regarding a long-term fee structure for Bancroft Park.

Westside Pioneer Article