Denver Councilman concerned about impact of snow, 420 Rally on Civic Center Park turf

Brown says 80k people may leave turf a muddy mess

DENVER - Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown says if 80,000 people show up for the Denver 420 Rally on Saturday, as expected, the turf in Civic Center Park could end up a muddy mess.

"It’s just soggy," Brown said.  "And we’re getting more snow."

Brown minces no words. He'd prefer rally participants not show up.

"We all know what they’re going to be there for," he said.

Brown said organizers have been quoted as saying they want to create the largest marijuana smoke cloud ever.

"I don’t think the taxpayers should be responsible for paying for a Woodstock in downtown Denver," Brown told 7NEWS.

But rally organizer Miguel Lopez says they have a right to gather in the park, just like anyone else.

"I think Charlie Brown is an egomaniac and bigot when he wants to exclude marijuana constituents who dominate the city," Lopez said.

Lopez said that if the turf gets damaged from people walking on it, “getting it taken care of is the city’s responsibility.”

"It is our right to gather there," Lopez told 7NEWS. "However, it is part of our function in the permit process to maintain the beautification of the park."

When asked if his group would pay for damage to the park, he said, "We have insurance."

In 2007, voters approved $9.5 million to rehabilitate the park.

Most of that money was used to restore the Greek Theater, Voorhies Memorial, Broadway Terrace, Broadway Groves, park walkways and balustrades.

The remainder was used to rebuild a state of the art irrigation system and to replace the sod. 

Brown said that because it’s considered a first amendment rally, the 420 group only had to pay $157.25 for a two-and-a-half day permit. He said he'd like to see the 420 group charged the same permit fee that other groups, like the Taste of Colorado, pay.

Lopez, on the other hand, said the main function of the rally is political.

He also noted that marijuana businesses are heavily regulated, face difficulty with banking issues and aren't treated like the vendors at regular street fairs.

Brown said he plans to introduce an ordinance to change the permitting process to garner larger fees from groups that heavily impact a park.

Lopez countered, "Before the rally even existed, there were no permits and there was no responsible person to pick up the trash. People have always used the park and will continue to use the park."

Brown said it’s not just trash and turf that he’s concerned about. He also worries about public safety.

"I got calls to my office last year," Brown said, "about people falling onto Colfax while leaving this event. They were so stoned they couldn’t walk."

Lopez said, "It's no different than any other group that participates there with alcohol. Even the Great American Beer Fest, with people going on runs to detox and urinating inside the Convention Center."

Parks officials say they will meet with rally organizers on Thursday to walk through the park and talk about conditions.

"We can’t change the weather," Jeff Green said. "We can seek to recover the costs of damage caused by heavy equipment, but not regular wear and tear."

When asked if his group will pay for damage caused to the turf, Lopez simply said, "We have insurance."