Dec 16, 2022 - News

Some Denver playgrounds want childless adults to stay out

A sign posted at Governor's Park. Photo: Alayna Alvarez/Axios

Adults without kids are being told to keep out of playgrounds in certain Denver parks.

Why it matters: The new rules mark the city's latest attempt in a yearslong battle to crack down on drug use, crime and homelessness in public spaces.

Driving the news: Signs that warn, "Adults must be accompanied by a child in the … playground at all times" are now posted at Governor's Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and Sonny Lawson Park in Five Points, Westword reports.

  • The signs emerged after the two popular parks were forced to close temporarily in recent years due to unsafe conditions, including syringes left by drug users on the premises.
  • Last year, the playground at Governor's Park was closed after officials uncovered 40 needles linked to drug use. The city shut down Sonny Lawson Park in 2019 to repair the grass and pushed out dozens of unhoused residents.

Between the lines: Homeless encampments have had a longstanding presence near the small parks, as the city's unhoused population hits record highs. In recent weeks, a campsite with multiple tents sat just two blocks from Governor's Park.

What they're saying: The attempted ban on adults without kids "stems from a lot of social issues … we've been having for the past two years," Scott Gilmore, deputy director of Denver Parks and Recreation, told Westword. Staff are regularly "raking through the wood chips on the playgrounds, looking for needles."

Yes, but: The new guidelines aren't "technically" enforceable, Gilmore said. Park rangers can only issue citations for illegal behavior, though they have the power to shutter a park to the public — as they did last year in effort to "take back" Civic Center Park, citing health and safety concerns.

Of note: Rangers will use discretion to avoid penalizing people using the playgrounds as they're intended. "If some people are on date night and they want to sit on the swing enjoying Governor's Park, that's totally fine," Gilmore said.

The big picture: Denver's new rules are soft compared to measures other cities have taken.

  • In New York City, for example, adults without kids are prohibited from hanging around playgrounds. Adults have been served tickets for eating donuts and playing chess.
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