DENVER — At the start of the pandemic, Denver Parks and Recreation followed a nationwide trend, closing various park roads and parking lots throughout the city to make room for social distancing. Now some of those roads have reopened, and everyone isn't pleased.
On Saturday, Denver Streets Partnership held a "Parks are for People" rally to share their concern about roadway accessibility in City Park.
Last year, a street portion near 17th Avenue and a street portion near York Street were closed to provide more social distancing space to bikers and pedestrians. In the past two weeks, Denver Parks and Recreation reopened those areas.
"I think right now, there was a little bit of chaos when the [Parks & Recreation] department opened up streets to cars. People were used to being car free. It caught families and other folks walking and rolling through the park off guard," said Molly McKinley, vice chair of Denver Streets Partnership steering committee.
McKinley said she and others would like to see the street portions, close, once again.
"So that there is a continuous through-way for people walking, biking that is car free through City Park," she said.
McKinley and other Denver Streets Partnership members said they feel Parks and Recreation failed to listen to survey results by re-opening street portions.
Parks and Recreation released the survey results in February, and 82% of the 4,200 responses supported long-term closures.
Others showed up to the rally on Saturday to express their disagreement.
"We want it to stay open to cars and pedestrians and bicyclists, like it's always been," said Venesha Hall, a Denver resident born and raised near City Park.
Hall said pre-pandemic, there were never any issues with different means of transportation, sharing the space.
"They don't need to close off any more of the park. If they want a car free park, Cheesman is closed to cars, Washington Park is closed and Sloan's Lake," she said.
Hall said if additional streets were to permanently close, she believes it would make parking inaccessible for many.
"Seniors who have problems walking long ways or handicap or even people in wheelchairs. It would be a disservice to them," she added.
Denver Parks and Rec. Deputy Executive Director, Scott Gilmore, told Denver7 that re-instating the street closures near 17th Avenue and York Street would push two-way traffic onto another "narrow" park roadway.
He said it's neither "safe" nor "feasible".
"What we're asking for is really just some small closures that will help allow plenty of space for people driving. There's lots of roads through the park that people can be using."McKinley said.