COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — In an effort to cut down on the amount of crime and trash littering Dorchester Park, the Colorado Springs Police Department and Parks and Recreation have opted close the pavilions. The two structures are wrapped in chain link fence that is bolted at the top and bottom.
"Unfortunately, Dorchester Park has been an ongoing issue as far as homeless populations being in the park, creating a significant amount of work for park crews to clean up on a daily basis," said Kurt Schroeder, Park Maintenance and Operations Manager.
The park, located just north of the I-25 and South Nevada/Tejon overpass, borders Fountain Creek and is frequently visited and used by the city's homeless community. However, officers were responding to an increasing number of calls for service there in recent months.
"People began to, in a sense, do whatever they wanted to over there," explained Lt. Mike Lux.
He said a large group of between 30 and 40 people would regularly gather inside the pavilion and camp there overnight. Dozens were arrested or ticketed for drug abuse or illegal camping.
"They felt protected, people wouldn't come up to them, they were somewhat intimidating by other people in the park," Lux said.
The fencing was installed by Parks and Recreation staff. Schroeder estimates the materials cost roughly $3,000.
Since the installation, the volume of trash accumulating in the park dropped noticeably.
"Police officers as well as Neighborhood Services, which you know is code enforcement, has seen a really positive result for us," explained Lt. Lux.
The park remains open to the public. Schroeder explained the goal is to make the park more attractive to the community at large by reducing criminal behavior there.
There are no immediate plans for major improvements. Schroeder said the urban renewal projects along South Nevada Avenue and in Southwest Downtown may eventually lead to a desire for a new master plan.
"Our goal would be to activate the park in a different way, to try to attract appropriate uses," he said. "We're not ready to roll out anything."
Lux said the department is keeping track of crime statistics at the park. However, since the fencing was just installed in August, it is still too soon to look for any trends about their impact.