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DENVER -- Denver Public Works spent Saturday morning in the Montbello neighborhood plowing the streets after a big snowstorm, fixing damaged street signs and covering over graffiti.
It’s all part of a new initiative started by Mayor Michael Hancock called Community Care Day. Once a month, crews will choose an area that needs a little extra attention and spend the day cleaning up the area.
“Everything from fixing signs, removing graffiti, picking up trash and things of that nature,” said Denver Public Works Executive Director Eulois Cleckley. “There are certain neighborhoods that need a little bit more tender loving care than others.”
The program started on West Colfax, it went to Sun Valley and has now moved into Montbello. The snow did slow down the cleanup efforts a bit, however crews were determined to do what they could to help.
“Montbello has traditionally been an area that’s been considered vulnerable or an opportunity area, and over the years it might not have received as much attention as what was needed so we’re making a more concerted effort,” Cleckley said. “Equity is really about putting resources where they are needed most.”
The crews are planning on visiting the Montbello area once again in mid-March to pick up where they left off and complete some of the work the snow prevented them from performing.
“We want to make sure that we have the best infrastructure that we can possibly provide for our neighborhoods and, unfortunately, we are so far out from the city core that sometimes our services maybe haven’t been to the standards that we would like them to be,” said Denver City Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore.
Gilmore, who represents Montbello, says this cleanup effort is not going to be a one-time event. Instead, she’s focused on making sure Montbello gets the attention it deserves throughout the year.
“It’s about making sure we have good customer service in our neighborhoods,” Gilmore said.
For years, Montbello has had somewhat of a bad reputation, but residents say the area is actually a hidden gem in a city where costs are skyrocketing.
“It’s kind of a changing community,” said neighbor Martin Baughman. “I’ve been meeting a lot of people that are just trying to find a place with median house prices that they can get in and get their first home in Colorado.”
Home prices are beginning to go up in the area. That’s causing some long-time residents to choose to cash in and move away from the neighborhood, according to Baughman.
He’s also seen a lot of people move to the area who are looking for affordable housing as rent and home prices in Denver continue to rise.
“They probably couldn’t afford downtown but Montbello was a good place, it’s right in the middle, you can still go to shopping places just five or 10 minutes away and then the light rail and the airport are right here. So, for me it’s been a great place to live with my kids; we really like it here,” Baughman said.
Gilmore says that she has also seen the amount of graffiti in the area go down in recent years and the number of public murals and gardens go up. She believes young people in particular are developing a pride for the neighborhood.
She’s hoping a community cleanup day will help people who live here and those who only pass through see the true beauty and community spirit of Montbello.
“We are such a diverse and inclusive community. We love our neighbors. We are a community out here and so really the bad rap, we let that slide right off of our backs,” Gilmore said. “Just like every neighborhood we have our challenges, but we’re strong and we come together and we push forward.”