Thumbs-down vote by OCC board on city's Bancroft Park restroom planNov. 29, 2018
Displeasure with Colorado Springs Parks' plan for a public restroom in the front part of Bancroft Park led to a vote opposing it Nov. 28 by the committee for the Old Colorado City Special Improvement Maintenance District (SIMD).
By 3-1, the City Council-appointed body agreed to send a letter to the City Parks Advisory Board stating a concern that the self-cleaning facility will be abused by vagrants, which “may exacerbate” security issues in the district.
SIMD Committee Chair Jonathan Neely did not vote; however, earlier in the discussion he said he thought the motion by long-time board member Bill Grimes
Grimes opined that because of the park's proximity to the district - which borders it along Colorado Avenue as well as Colbrunn Court - any restroom problems could affect it.
He pointed out that the public restroom in Vermijo Park (just south of Old Colorado City) has had problems with vagrants and is usually closed as a result; and the same is true for Dorchester Park downtown.
City Parks plans to install a free-standing restroom building - costing just under $200,000 - at the southeast corner of the park, as part of a major Bancroft Park renovation this spring.
For now, on a regular basis, there are porta-pots in the back of the park. The traditional restrooms below the bandshell are still operational, but the city only allows them to open during special events; and, because of their stairs, they do not meet modern handicapped-accessibility requirements.
Also in favor of Grimes' motion were members Robin Roberts and Kathy Read.
The single “no” vote came from Bonnie Flynn, although she did note during the discussion that there have been repeated burglary incidents at the back of her property in Colorado Avenue's 2500 block where her business is also located.
The majority conceded that the restroom vote would probably not change any minds at the city. However, Roberts said she felt the SIMD was “obliged to make the city aware if we think they're going to do something that affects the security of the district.”
Unable to attend the meeting was committee member Judy Kasten, who has been advocating for several months against the restroom plan, mainly because of its prominent placement.
According to research she has done on similar facilities in other cities, the Bancroft version will likely become a repository for “trash, dirty clothes and drug paraphernalia,” such as are already left in the park's porta-pots, Kasten wrote in a memo to the committee. Eventually, the city will be forced to close it, she conjectured, leaving a “locked-up, large latrine at the entrance to the historic district. An outrageous embarrassment!”
In previous interviews and meetings, City Parks officials have said they believe the up-front restroom location will make criminality easier to spot and thus discourage it. The automated, self-cleaning mechanism is seen as preferable to having city employees do the work, which could only occur once a day, the city has said.
A restroom in the park has been proposed for several years by Old Town merchants - however, their suggested location had been behind the bandshell, near Pikes Peak Avenue. The city proposed an up-front location at the second of two public meetings on the Bancroft renovation plan in April 2017 and then included it in the version that the Parks Advisory Board approved the next month.
The SIMD committee is an advisory group to the Parks Department, which oversees spending on Old Colorado City public improvements. Funding comes from a special tax on district property owners, which committee members also must be.
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