After 60 year wait, Denver's Westwood neighborhood gets paved alleys

Homeowners hope it will reduce illegal dumping

DENVER - Plagued by mud, crime and illegal dumping, the Westwood neighborhood in Southwest Denver is getting a makeover that residents have been clamoring for, for years.

Public Works crews are in the midst of an alley paving project.

“Finally,” said longtime resident Fern Veasman. “We’ve been trying to get it done for 60 years, ever since we moved here.”

 When asked what the alleys are like in her neighborhood, Veasman replied, “Muddy. Every time it rains or snows there’s nothing but mud.”

Neighborhood resident Robert Duran told 7NEWS that the long wait has been frustrating.

“For one reason or another, due to the budget, or just sheer ignoring this little corner of Denver, it’s taken this long to get it done.”

When asked what it will be like once the alleys are paved, Duran said, “When we get our prevailing westerly winds at 60 mph, we won’t have dust storms blowing through our yards.”

Duran credits City Councilman Paul Lopez for getting the wheels rolling.

HeeHe said previous council members worked just as hard.

“I think it was Ramona Martinez, and God Bless her heart, she tried,” Duran said. “Rosemary Rodgriguez tried. Finally, we’re getting it done.”

Lopez credits the community for not giving up.  He also credits Mayor Michael Hancock and former Mayor Bill Vidal for a shift in priorities.

“For $1.1 million in existing funds, we don’t have to raise taxes to do this,” Lopez said. “We’re paving 186 alleys city wide.”

The councilman said he’s hopeful that the project will help curb illegal dumping in Southwest Denver.

“It’s been a mess,” he said.

“It’s been real bad,” Veasman added. “People come from all around and dump their mattresses, beds and furniture.”

“It just piles up in the alleys,” Duran added.

Lopez said that if the illegal dumpers see that the alleys are being spruced up,  they might be more hesitant to drop their debris there.

“Paving alleys is a big thing,” Lopez said. “And second, we just got Denver Police and Solid Waste to get the O.K. to impound vehicles of folks caught dumping illegally.”

Lopez said the alley paving project "is a win for many undedicated and unpaved alleys across the city that are in similar blighted shape and lead to lower property values and neighborhood health."

The city councilman told 7NEWS that homeowners are key in helping cut back on the illegal dumping.

“The best detectives we have,” he said, “are everyday people who have a willingness to speak up and do the right thing. They should report illegal activity when they see it.”

Westwood was the last independent neighborhood annexed into Denver in 1947, according to RentAdvisor.com.

The website said Westwood is a melting pot of ethnicities, including Mexican, Latin Americans, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese. The median home value is $150,000.

According to the city's website, Denver has 4,000 alleys. The city created the alley paving program in 2005 to finish paving 1,000 unimproved alleys. The goal was to pave 100 to 200 alleys each year.

See the 2013 paving schedule: http://www.denvergov.org/Portals/707/documents/StreetMaintenance/2013%20paving%20March.pdf

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